E-books on EBSCOhost®: Combining NetLibrary™ E-books with the EBSCOhost Platform

As libraries expand their services and keep up with technology, vendors that serve libraries need to keep up as well. E-books and audiobooks are becoming core services for libraries and as patrons and researchers turn to their libraries for these resources, libraries are in turn looking to their vendors to meet those needs. At EBSCO Publishing (EBSCO), we see e-books as an essential resource for libraries. All of the types of libraries we serve are buying e-books and audiobooks, which are rapidly growing parts of their collections.

Given our long-term relationships with both publishers and libraries, we see ourselves as being well-positioned to help both parties by leveraging the value and popularity of the EBSCOhost® platform as a delivery vehicle for e-books. Publishers benefit from having an aggregator that understands their needs and libraries benefit from having a vendor and a platform they know and trust to provide a variety of e-book options that allow libraries to make the best access decisions to serve their end users.

The actual idea of adding e-books to EBSCOhost began with customer suggestions that we become an e-book aggregator. once we established that the idea had merit we began looking at the landscape. Acquiring NetLibrary in March 2010 provided us with a unique opportunity: take the original e-book platform to new heights with an extended EBSCOhost platform that will provide the best e-book and audiobook experience for libraries. it also gave us the chance to leverage our great relationships with publishers to extend the substantial content base that came with NetLibrary In addition to greatly expanding the licensing models under which content is available. At this time EBSCO was also busy with the continued development of EBSCO Discovery Service and as we looked ahead, we realized that both initiatives helped libraries benefit from the improved integration of content (electronic and print) through a unified interface that offers the end user ease of access along with the sophistication to provide a familiar, powerful user experience.

When EBSCO Publishing acquired NetLibrary we had the long-term goal of integrating e-books into EBSCOhost while at the same time making immediate improvements to the NetLibrary platform. An example of improvements that were made included expanding print options from 15 pages up to 60 pages. At the same time, we were even more focused on analyzing and revamping all of the NetLibrary systems and processes to make them the most modern and optimized ones in the industry. All of this development was designed to achieve our ultimate goal—enabling users to search e-books and audiobooks alongside their EBSCOhost databases.

The preview of e-books on EBSCOhost, which was released in March 2011, was a year in the making. The debut of e-books on EBSCOhost incorporates suggestions from librarians all over the world and includes the results of user testing designed to create a seamless and integrated environment that supported searching databases as well as e-books. The preview also introduced the new e-book viewer designed to maximize the user’s experience with each e-book. While NetLibrary is one of the best known e-book platforms for libraries, the NetLibrary interface has been a well-known source of frustration for librarians and end users. NetLibrary was simply in need of updating to introduce better searching, faster speeds, and more options for librarians and end users alike. EBSCOhost was primed to extend its position as the most-used research platform.

While NetLibrary has many users, traditionally e-books have been searched separately on their own interface. EBSCO’s goal was to integrate the content into EBSCOhost, which is used in tens of thousands of libraries, and to combine the large e-book collection available from NetLibrary with the powerful search experience available from EBSCOhost. Adding e-books to EBSCOhost improves the usability of e-books, increases access to the content, and allows libraries to maximize the value of their e-book collections. The most significant improvement that librarians and users will experience now that e-books are available on EBSCOhost will be the functionality that the EBSCOhost platform brings to e-books including such resources as the ability to save, e-mail, and view citations and bookmark results. Users will also be able to explore the table of contents from the result list or the detailed record more easily. (in NetLibrary browsing the table of contents required the user to access the full text, which meant the title was unavailable for other users.) Another new feature is the inclusion of BISAC categories, which introduces new user-friendly subject headings and search functionality and takes library classification to a new level.

Once the full migration to EBSCOhost is complete in July 2011, we will introduce an optional e-book landing page and an optional audiobook landing page to facilitate content browsing. The site will also feature full 508c accessibility, COUNTER- compliant reporting, permalinks to page numbers, and branding options. later in 2011, enhancements will include the ability to load EPUB content, which will rapidly expand the number of front-list titles available on EBSCOhost and will strengthen the downloadable e-book program. Additional enhancements not related to the interface will include expanded access models such as unlimited user models, multiple user models, short-term lease models, and improved patron driven acquisition (PDA) options.

Since access models depend on publisher agreements, EBSCO is leveraging its long-standing relationships with publishers to negotiate a variety of access options for libraries. The current NetLibrary standard of one book, one user is limiting. new options include a three-user model and an unlimited-user model. EBSCO will also offer upgrade options. A library could start out with a three-user model and upgrade to an unlimited model when librarians see that the demand warrants expanded access for a title and want to retain ownership of the title while also offering it to each user without delay. in much the same way, a smart PDA approach would allow a site to establish which titles its collection development experts want to expose to PDA and allow patron usage to drive both acquisitions and upgrades. A library might initially pay for one user and establish a framework for upgrades in which a certain number of subsequent uses or requests would trigger an upgrade to a three-user or an unlimited-user model.

Collection development for e-books and audiobooks on EBSCOhost can be achieved in a variety of ways. Currently the TitleSelect service allows libraries to search nearly 300,000 titles available from EBSCO and make selections on a title- by-title basis. subject sets are a prepackaged set of titles chosen specifically for their subject appeal. The EBSCO collection development team of librarians and collection specialists use their expertise and knowledge to create collections and subject sets for libraries. To date, EBSCO has created more than 150 e-book subject sets—representing more than 2,500 titles. All subject sets from EBSCO include titles published within the past three years and have no duplication among current or past offerings. EBSCO also creates standard Collections which work as great starting points for a library to begin selecting a wider range of titles within a given discipline. We offer more than 200 standard Collections, each of which has between 500 and 2000 titles. Lastly, we offer Custom Collections, which are built by EBSCO’s collection development librarians based on the distinct needs of a given institution. This approach is designed for larger purchases and lets libraries work with our collection development librarians, sharing their content objectives and knowledge of their current collections along with their budget in order to create a custom collection for the library to consider. The idea is that the library then works with this list of suggested titles to either purchase in whole or refine. in the end, this is still “title-by- title” acquisition as the library can elect to remove or add any titles it sees fit.

After the migration of NetLibrary to EBSCOhost, a new EBSCOhost Collection manager (ECM) will be introduced to take the place of TitleSelect. EBSCOhost Collection manager will provide a simpler user experience for librarians. ECM will make it even easier for librarians to create or add to their collections on their own, build or augment collections with subject sets, create a profile and be alerted when new titles or collections meeting the profile become available, participate in collaborative collection development with colleagues, or work with EBSCO to create a custom collection.

E-books on EBSCOhost are designed to meet the needs of any library and its users—from serious academic researchers looking for the latest information on a subject who will now see e-books integrated with periodical content to public library patrons looking for an e-book or audiobook to download to the latest mobile device. Currently, Adobe®’s digital publishing solution facilitates the download for e-books on EBSCOhost allowing access from most dedicated e-book readers and mobile devices, including Sony eReader, Nook, Samsung eReader, iPad, iPhone, and droid phones. As EBSCO grows its e-book and audiobook collections, we will continue to add titles that serve the needs of academic, medical, and corporate users but the addition of EPUB titles will allow EBSCO to add more of the popular fiction and non-fiction titles that public libraries require.

Libraries are in many different phases of adding e-books into their collections and they want a variety of options from their e-book provider. Some libraries want to fully integrate e-books and databases, while others want separate profiles. EBSCO has always offered strong administrative capabilities through EBSCIadmin and we will offer a variety of options for e-books. We believe we are offering librarians the best interface to bring these resources to their end users along with the most varied access models. We will continue to work with libraries and publishers to improve access and the options that are available to help libraries add e-books and serve the needs of their end users. After having so many librarians suggest that we begin to provide e-books on EBSCOhost, we are eager to hear what our library customers think and our goal is to continue to develop an e-book service that provides the best user experience and unparalleled content along with the most flexible acquisition and licensing arrangements.

Michael Gorrell <mdg@ebscohost.com> is Senior Vice President, Chief information Office, EBSCO Publishing.