Midlands (Leicester)

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Venue: University of Leicester

Date: Tuesday 26 November, 2013

Attendees:

  • Joanne Dunham (Leicester)
  • James Fisher (Warwick)
  • Ed Kirkland (Leicester)
  • Erica Lee (Aston)
  • Finola Osbourne (Warwick)
  • Val Wilkins (Derby)

 1 – Selection

Attendees identified the following problems encountered by the library in the selection process of purchasing an eBook:

  • Publisher’s versions of a title offer the following benefits: less restrictive DRM and more compatible file format (PDF). However purchasing directly from the publishers would initiate the following issues: multiple platforms to manage and maintain, and the lack of a standard workflow to acquire a title. ). Could JISC negotiate DRM free collections? Although the idea was liked in principle the efficacy of purchasing collections that included titles not required by an institution was questioned. Therefore could JISC negotiate for PDA collections DRM free?
  • It is time consuming to shop around the different providers for the information required before purchasing a title – could a selection tool that pulled live data from multiple providers and allowed orders to be placed be developed?
  • If a title is available it tends to be available through a number of suppliers in a variety of models therefore selection is more about the workflow or model that suits an individual institution.

2 – Administration

Attendees commented on the problems encountered in the management of eBooks. The following common issues were identified:

  • The lack of standardisation in the administration of PDA across the providers can cause difficulties and is time consuming.
  • The large volume of trouble-shooting problems relating to accessing a title through the multiple platforms.
  • The lack of notifications about changes to subscribed packages means it is difficult to make the correct changes on the required systems and maintain the correct access.
  • Poor quality and inaccurate metadata of titles on the knowledgebases of the discovery systems. Could JISC maintain accurate, current and verified bibliographic information about eBooks that could be supplied to the provider’s knowledgebases? They are already doing a similar thing for journals.
  • Lack of workflow for remembering when to reinstate access to a title, when the credits are renewed after 12 months, if the link has been temporarily supressed due to lack of credits.
  • Preparation for PDA is time consuming and requires specialist knowledge of the correct API scripts and MARC edits to ensure the MARC records are the right standard for the catalogue to upload the records.
  • Incomplete weeding old editions. Although an institution may remove access to a title through the discovery system or catalogue the provider will not remove access therefore the title is still discoverable to users on the provider’s platform.

3 – Use & Assessment

Attendees discussed the problems encountered in using and evaluating the value of eBooks. The following issues were raised:

  • The unavailability of detailed usage data such as chapter level statistics and duration of use, which would allow a more detailed analysis. It was felt that as eBooks are expensive it is crucial that institutions can demonstrate their value to a collection.
  • Activating free eBook collections can devalue a user’s search as it can return a lot of results.
  • Difficulties in acquiring accurate and detailed MARC records for a purchased eBook. Would it be possible to have a centralised place for records regardless of where the eBook has come from?
  • Difficulties encountered in obtaining accurate and timely reports on spend during PDA to monitor and plan budgets.

4 – User Experience

Attendees commented on the problems users (students and lecturers) face with e-books which they bring to the library, although as one person remarked libraries only hear about the problems: most of the time most users use e-books happily, even if they have to adapt their own personal workflows to fit with the peculiarities of e-books functionality. The following common issues were reported:

  • The lack of standardised formats and interfaces for e-books
  • Limitations on what users can do with them, such as printing,  copying and pasting or annotating
  • Limitations on what devices or apps can be used for accessing e-books, for example restricted ability to download to tablets or e-readers
  • The need in some cases to install specialist software to access an e-book
  • Limitations on the ability to take e-books to read off-campus
  • Limitations on what books are available electronically
  • Limitations on the length of time users can access them, e.g. one day
  • Books recently available suddenly ceasing to be so, in some cases even if linked from reading lists (especially if the list has not been passed to the library by the lecturer)
  • The need in many cases for multiple log-ins to access e-books and issues arising around authentication.

It was suggested that anecdotal evidence suggests that many students don’t like e-books, although there is insufficient detailed evidence to unpick whether this is an intrinsic dislike on the part of some students, including younger students, for on-screen reading, or whether it arises from the restrictions on use that they face. It was recognized that issues around e-books loomed larger for some particular groups of students, e.g. distance learners and those needing to use assistive software for accessibility.

An issue was also raised about a growing interest from some departments in buying e-books for individual students, perhaps as part of a marketing package, with the thought that this may become very significant in a more competitive higher education market. This would raise a range of issues for libraries including how such students would be supported if problems arose.

5 – Most discussed pain points

  • Differences in restrictions on the publishers version of a title and the aggregators version of a title
  • Lack of a central place to find all the information needed before purchasing a title
  • Poor quality and inaccurate metadata on the knowledgebase.
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