Newcastle University

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Venue: Newcastle University

Date: 14th January 2014


  • Amanda Boll (Metadata Librarian and Co-Head of Technical Services)
  • Jenny Campbell (Engineering Liaison Librarian)
  • Pamela Dodds (Co-Head of Technical Services)
  • Lucy Keating (Arts & Humanities Liaison Librarian)
  • Jill Taylor-Roe (Deputy University Librarian)

1 – Selection

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

  • Acquiring the textbooks required by the academics in e-format. Many of the textbooks required are not available in e-format, this is particularly true for the Arts and Humanities subjects where academics are advising students to use books that are out of print and unavailable as an eBook.
  • The lack of a single place to find reputable eBooks in a subject area. Although Swets have had a go their system only includes aggregators that are already used. What is ideally required is a system that covers all the aggregators and publishers and includes information on what is available, from where, how and the various pricing models.
  • Multiplicity of pricing models makes it difficult to budget in advance.
  • The lack of a standard model of eBook relies on individual knowledge of the market to make the best purchase.
  • It is never clear which edition is available in e-format or if it is up to date with the print edition.
  • Disparity of the level of detail available about the title in print and e-format. More information is available for print titles.

2 – Administration

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

  • Although the free eBook collections have some valuable content they can clutter up the discovery system, therefore only individual books are put on the catalogue.
  • Problems with ranking in the Knowledgebase. Often the least relevant resources appear first therefore we would like to be able to rank the data ourselves. This would allow us to utilise the free collections more effectively
  • Durability of free content and a reliance on the Knowledgebase providers to keep the metadata up to date and accurate.
  • Quality and quantity of catalogue records. MARC records are needed as the discovery tool searches across all of the collections including the catalogue, therefore without the MARC records discovery is impeded.
  • Loading of catalogue records is a lengthy process.
  • Poor quality metadata – it sometimes only includes a title. However the detail and work has already been done to create the MARC record so why can the data not be transferred to metadata? Is it possible to share decent basic records?
  • Updates to the collections are not timely. Although the OCLC service records are very good they are not current.
  • Lack of alert system for new editions to keep the collections up to date and for the appropriate action to be taken.

3 – Use & Assessment

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

  • Statistics are needed as the budgets are getting tighter so the ability to scrutinize what is renewed is essential. However there can be a lack of standardisation across the suppliers as some vendors account for different bits of use. This makes the statistics meaningless as they are no longer comparable therefore it is essential that publishers ascribe to COUNTER standards. We have started being tough and if the publisher does not ascribe to COUNTER standards we do not purchase from them.
  • Would also like to know who is using the resource to allow further analysis to be performed. Very interested in usage by academic schools as this helps when responding to National Student Satisfaction Survey (NSS) results.
  • Although our overseas students only account for a very small percentage of our total student FTE and irrespective of where they are based, will come out with a Newcastle degree,
  • Publishers are beginning to push the purchase of an additional licence. Pricing regimes seem to take no account of proportionality, which makes it very difficult for us to afford.

4 – User Experience

Attendees commented that they appear to have far fewer issues with eBooks now, which they attribute to the fact that more people are familiar with ebooks for general reading. However they also raised the following issues:

  • Bad functionality on some platforms e.g. printing page by page
  • Disparity of functionality between the big publisher’s platforms and the aggregators.
  • Discovery – although there is a larger amount of information available in electronic format than in print and it is often easier to discover not all users realise the potential of the resources due to the variety of searches that have to be performed across different platforms. For example many users do not realise the distinction between searches on the library catalogue and searches within a package.
  • Lack of standard experience of searching and working across the platforms.
  • Variety of ways of downloading and the different formats makes it difficult to support users. Librarians have limited time to show users the different functionality and cannot cover everything.
  • Accessibility – Although standards do exist very few of the platforms actual meet the standards. Additionally there is no specific way to support the use of eBooks in comparison to print where they have extended load periods. Would it be possible to have standardisation across the platforms for accessibility?
  • Shared responsibility of eBooks. Library staff do not always have the skills/time to support issues arising from the different types of mobile/electronic devices, but the IT people do not have the skills/time to support the use of eBooks.

5 – Most discussed pain points

  • Standard place to check availability, price, licensing terms, ability to download, models, etc.
  • Understanding what is possible on each platform – could we create standard instructions on using the different platforms and display allowances using a traffic light system. Would some of the vendors be interested in helping with this?

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