ALA’s Ebook Platforms for Libraries – What it’s about and what it’s for

Last Friday, ALA released it’s latest Library Technology Report (LTR)  entitled, “Ebook Platforms for Libraries.”  Mirela Roncevic, a No Shelf Required contributor, wrote and compiled the LTR.  Mirela posted on her personal blog about the report including background information about what the report contains, what it’s for, and how it can be used by librarians.  It is a really nice summary of how and why the publication was created.  Here is an excerpt from her post:

At this point, it’s anyone’s guess what the vast and growing ebooks landscape in libraries will look like a year or two from now, but as it stands right now, librarians need to keep up or they will remain behind. That’s what this report aims to do: provide a starting point from which they can embark on their institutions’ ebook ventures.

The goal here is to break it all down for them–objectively and in as much detail as a single author can handle without losing track of it all herself–and to provide a Zagat-style A-Z listing of all the key players in the ebooks market, explain their identities, and the uniqueness of their products. To help me sort through the mess, I’ve developed a technique I use each time I evaluate a new vendor: if you are not producing content from scratch like a publisher or merging content from multiple books for research purposes like an aggregator, then you are a type of distributor. And, of course, you can be more than one of these three at the same time.

It took several months to compile this report. Although I am its sole author, I relied on the feedback provided by a number of (willing) vendors who were asked to supply information as current as possible about each product. The survey sent to the companies catering to libraries (including publishers, aggregators, distributors, and ebook lending services) included a long list of questions, grouped according to these four purchasing criteria: content, technical specs, functionality, and business model. Here is a sampling of the types of information requested from all four groups:

  • number of titles
  • subjects covered
  • type of service (e.g., aggregator, lending service, etc)
  • number of publishers represented
  • key library markets (e.g., public, academic/research, K-12)
  • inclusion of multi-media
  • ebook formats (e.g., ePub, PDF)
  • reading devices supported
  • ADA compliance (yes or no)
  • DRM limitations (copy, paste, print, etc.)
  • Offline reading (yes or no)
  • Annotation tools
  • Usage reports
  • Interlibrary Loan options
  • Annual platform fees
  • Minimal commitment
  • Consortial purchasing
  • Free trials