North (Sheffield)

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Venue: Sheffield

Date: Tuesday 3 December, 2013


  • Denise Barnett (University of Hull)
  • Cath Broadley (MMU)
  • Helen Charles (University of Manchester)
  • Annette Coates (Northumbria University)
  • Kathryn Halfpenny (Edge Hill University)
  • Catherine McManamon (MMU)
  • Jayne Roberts (Leeds College of Art)
  • Steve Sharp (University of Leeds)
  • Fiona Ware (University of Hull)

1 – Selection

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

  • Multiplicity of purchase models, licence conditions and DRM restrictions means it is time consuming collating all the information that is required to decide where to purchase a title from.
  • Limited purchase triggers for PDA by some suppliers
  • Delay in the publication of institutional eBooks can lead to the purchase of print
  • Lack of content in e-format
  • Limitations with the discoverability of eBooks within the free collections by the user means they are not always utilised

2 – Administration

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

  • Difficulties encountered in keep up to date with the changes to the free and subscribed eBook collections – could a shared service help?
  • Lack of standardisation in the administration of PDA – differences in the invoicing procedures, purchase triggers and institutional management of the model.
  • Lack of consistency and constant changes with the credit purchase model across and even within suppliers makes it difficult to manage titles purchased on this model and monitor budgets.
  • It is time-consuming to load and then de-load the MARC records onto the catalogue before and after the PDA.
  • Difficulties have been encountered during de-duplication before the commencement of PDA
  • Difficulties have been encountered in obtaining timely and accurate reports on spend during PDA with some suppliers.
  • Price – too expensive
  • Inability to always integrate the workflow of eBook purchase with print purchase means it is time consuming.
  • Management on PDA is awkward
  • Inaccurate and out of date metadata for the titles and packages available from a supplier in the discovery system’s knowledgebase.
  • Poor quality MARC records – often just the basic title and author. This makes the titles difficult to discover and map to the print holdings.

3 – Use & Assessment

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

  • The lack of eBook content makes it unfamiliar and not the preferred format for some users
  • Poor quality images within eBooks
  • Limited ability to obtain reports for usage due to technical issues with the supplier’s portals
  • Lack of consistent terminology across suppliers for Counter BR2 statistics have made the statistics less valuable
  • Lack of alerts to inform institutions when a new edition has been published in e-format
  • Troubleshooting problems from the users is time consuming
  • Lack of consistent DRM restrictions across the platforms and the absence of the restrictions being clearly explained on the platforms makes it difficult to inform the user
  • Platforms do not work with all mobile devices and it is not consistent across the suppliers. It is also hard to keep abreast of the developments allowing download across the different platforms.

4 – User Experience

Issues reported included:

  • Need for users and library staff to cope with multiple e-book systems, multiple log-in routes, compounded by the multiplicity of devices in use – could a cross-platform point of entry or a single eBook platform be developed?
  • Students expect individualised support which places burden on library staff
  • Students complain of too little choice and control. They want anytime anywhere access to ebook and to use their Kindles or other devices
  • Kindles create an expectation of flexibility that library e-books don’t deliver
  • Library e-books have inferior interfaces to Kindles and the e-book system doesn’t provide the seamless experience that users find with Amazon
  • Some students give up using ebooks due to complexity and lack of flexibility
  • One focus group run with medical students found that they tended to see ebooks as a back-up to print. They wanted more interactivity in e-books, and complained of poor formatting e.g. page numbers not matching references to the print version
  • The Dawsonera reader function for disabled students uses up credits rapidly
  • Discoverability of e-books can be an issue
  • There is a lack of e-books in other European languages although the situation is improving
  • Some reported licensing issues for staff in partner colleges
  • Inter-library loan are problematic although rentals can provide an alternative

5 – Most discussed pain points

  • Lack of selection tool. All of the attendees noted the lack of a ‘Books in print’ equivalent and that there is currently no place to compare the market, and then agreed that it made the selection process difficult and time consuming – could a central place which held all the information such as access models, prices and licence terms to allow the best item to be purchased be developed?
  • Lack of new editions report. A number of the attendees agreed that a new editions report would help in the management of their e-collections
  • Lack of textbooks in e-format
  • Lack of standardisation across purchase models
  • Delay in publication of institutional e-format.

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