University of York

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Venue: University of York

Date: 5th December 2013


  • Kathy Boyd (Bibliographic Services Team Leader)
  • Robin Cook (E-resources Coordinator)
  • Sue Elphinstone (Content Description Librarian)
  • Sarah Thompson (Head of Content)

1 – Selection

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

  • Multiplicity of different models. As the range of models increases it is getting more and more complicated to purchase wisely. Additionally there is no one place where all the information (where a title is available, the conditions, which packages it is included in, pricing) is kept therefore it is difficult and time consuming to make selection decisions as staff are unsure as to where to search for title information
  • Time lags can cause duplicated purchasing – if a title is purchased in a collection but the information has not been loaded into the catalogue it could accidentally be ordered again
  • No standardisation across the PDA models – the models are changeable, have different purchase triggers, different methods of administration and different ways of invoicing
  • EBooks are more expensive than print copies
  • Delays in e-publication. As it is more about supplying the title at the correct time, the print is often purchased over the electronic as it has not been published yet
  • Differences in the DRM restrictions placed on the publishers version and the aggregators version of a title
  • Publishers are beginning to prevent the aggregators from supplying a title through the credit model which is the preferred model
  • Difficulties encountered in becoming aware of the free collections that are available and the content they hold
  • Poor quality of images within eBooks leads to the purchase of print for particular subjects e.g. History of Art
  • Publisher’s versions of a title tend to have fewer DRM restrictions than the aggregators version. However purchase via a publisher is more complicated and time consuming as their systems are not integrated with the library management system
  • Inability of the discovery system to work with the Reading List (EARL) software. To identify items that are essential purchases reports are currently run against the catalogue and EARL. It is impossible to run a report against the knowledgebase and EARL therefore it is essential that eBooks are held on the catalogue as well as the discovery system to prevent duplicated purchasing

2 – Administration

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

  • Lack of timely notification from suppliers about changes to packages makes it difficult to maintain the correct access
  • Lack of agreed quality for MARC records of titles within a package – publishers do not always provide records for all the titles within a package
  • Time limits on some MARC records for packages for downloading them
  • Lack of confidence in the knowledgebase integrity – it is hard to find the individual titles purchased to activate. ISBN’s not always accurate and the titles are not always there for the correct provider. Although the packages tend to be there the title level detail is not checked for inaccuracies. Attendees agreed that they would trust the information if it was supplied by JISC as through KB+ they have an established reputation for checking and authenticating the lists and data
  • It is time-consuming to report the inaccuracies in the knowledgebase and have them rectified
  • Increased volume of monthly title changes to subscribed packages and the lack of an automated process to deal with them make the monthly deletions a time consuming process and causes delays in maintaining the correct access
  • Attendees questioned the stability of the free eBook collections

3 – Use & Assessment

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

  • Lack of accepted and standard way of assessing the value of an eBook. Although the usage statistics are easy to obtain from publisher portals and are available in granular detail there is currently no standard way of analysing the statistics
  • The limited accessibility of the platforms for partially sighted users. Could more be done at a national level, perhaps putting pressure on the publishers to make more the platforms more accessible?
  • Inability to move content around platforms after it has been purchased

4 – User Experience

Due to time constraints a limited discussion was held on problems encountered by the users. The following issues were raised:

  • Misunderstanding by the user on what they can do due to the varying allowances across the platforms and suppliers
  • Lack of consistent terminology across the platforms

It was reported that some students say they prefer print copies to the e-versions.

Attendees reported that users do not appear to be experiencing many problems with downloading content to a variety of mobile devices (iPad and Android devices). Although the service does not systematically test the download experience they have received a limited number of complaints and statistics demonstrate that the download functionality is being used.

5 – Most discussed pain points

  • Lack of catalogue to help with the selection process. Attendees all agreed that a catalogue that held all the information required about titles (e.g. price, purchase model, license terms, etc.) when making a purchase decision from all suppliers would help
  • All attendees noted that the poor quality and inaccurate metadata on the knowledgebase was a problem

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