All posts by Mirela Roncevic

I [Still] Want My Wikipedia!

Over 11 years ago, I co-wrote and edited an article for Library Journal with three librarians (during my days as Senior Book Review Editor for the magazine), whom I asked to test Wikipedia as a bona fide research tool at a time most scholars were adamantly resisting it. This article was published some five years after Wikipedia first launched, which was in 2001. In the article, I Want My Wikipedia!, a younger version of me wondered, “But like any form of government, democracy faces a unique set of problems: once given the power (to edit), will people abuse it?”

To give the article more balance, I recruited three librarians and subject specialists whom I had worked with on other LJ-related endeavors—Barry X. Miller (pop culture), Karl Helicher (current affairs), and Teresa Berry (science)—and asked each to give their verdict on the source’s authenticity. After reading their lengthy reviews, I concluded that “while there are still reasons to proceed with caution when using a resource that takes pride in limited professional management, many encouraging signs suggest that (at least for now) Wikipedia may be granted the librarian’s seal of approval.” Continue reading I [Still] Want My Wikipedia!

New Bowker report reveals self-publishing ISBNs climbed 8 percent between 2015 and 2016

Just in from Bowker:

New Bowker report reveals maturation and stabilization in the self-publishing industry

Since 2011, International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) for self-published titles have climbed 218.33%, according to the latest report from Bowker. A total of 786,935 ISBNs were assigned to self-published titles in 2016; in 2011, that number was 247,210. Continue reading New Bowker report reveals self-publishing ISBNs climbed 8 percent between 2015 and 2016

Major plays and musicals come to Alexander Street

Just in:

Alexandria, VA (August, 2017) – Now students and researchers can be immersed in the work of award-winning writers, actors and directors in action, whenever and wherever they are. BroadwayHD is one of the most important distributors of current Broadway plays and musicals – distributed exclusively to libraries via the Alexander Street™ platform.

An essential collection for students and researchers of the performing arts, The BroadwayHD Collection provides a unique pathway to uncovering critical insights only available from experiencing live performance. Encompassing 25 award-winning live Broadway plays and musicals featuring such luminaries as James Earl Jones, Jane Krakowski, Ed Harris, Jennifer Garner and Kevin Kline, this content is exclusively available from Alexander Street for worldwide educational streaming. Curated especially for performing arts scholars, The BroadwayHD Collection is also invaluable for studies in drama, music, dance and literature. Continue reading Major plays and musicals come to Alexander Street

ODILO chosen by European Commission to help boost literacy in schools

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​​​​​​​Just in:

Denver, CO, August 15, 2017 – ODILO, a global leader in the eBook industry, has been selected by the European Commission to provide their digital reading platform to European schools and universities.

Improving literacy and reading comprehension in schools has become one of the main challenges across Europe. With the support from the Commission, ODILO can now provide innovative and affordable solutions to assist schools and universities in their own reading plan implementations. Continue reading ODILO chosen by European Commission to help boost literacy in schools

Defending the honor of ebooks (and innovation)

Is the ebook a dead format? How eBooks lost their shine. The Reason Actual Books Are So Much More Memorable Than Ebooks. US Ebook Sales Decline. These are some of the headlines I’ve seen recently perpetuating the (suddenly popular) notion that ebooks are not ‘in’ anymore. That they have somehow failed us. That nothing compares to the reading of actual physical objects in the world. That the challenges the publishing industry has seen with ebooks (i.e., declining sales) point in the direction of a ‘format’ on the verge of dying.

Such articles aren’t only written by informed bloggers and journalists but also by industry professionals with significant experience in the publishing and library and information science markets, particularly those catering to consumers and public libraries. They exhibit a great deal of knowledge and sensible arguments about the challenges the publishing community (trade, in particular) has had with ebooks, focusing largely on the shortfalls of various business models to deliver revenue as predictable as revenue from print, the technological issues associated with ‘formats’  that haven’t been able to deliver a fully satisfying reading experience, and, not to be overlooked, the fierce competitiveness within the market itself, which has often resulted in ‘the powerful’  thriving even if their offerings were inferior to those by various start-ups (most of which perished in recent years).

In short, technology has not been able to ‘disrupt’ book publishing the way it has disrupted other industries in the not-so-distant past (e.g., music, news), and here we are at a crossroads again, asking some existential questions. Continue reading Defending the honor of ebooks (and innovation)

How enormous is Sci-Hub? And does its size signal the end of paywalled research?

According to biodata scientist Daniel Himmelstein (University of Pennsylvania ) and his colleagues, who recently conducted a survey that investigated the impact of the web site and its repository, “Sci-Hub can instantly provide access to more than two-thirds of all scholarly articles.  The self-proclaimed “first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers” (as stated on its homepage)  continues to grow rapidly while still facing legal issues.

Himmelstein’s study (published on July 20th on PeerJ Preprints) found that Sci-Hub’s reach is even greater for research papers protected by a paywall (instant access is provided for 85 percent of all papers published in subscription journals). In a conversation with ScienceInsider, Himmelstein said that the results of the study could mark ‘the beginning of the end” for paywalled research.

When asked if librarians would ever endorse Sci-Hub over paying for journal access, Himmelstein said: “I don’t think librarians would ever endorse it, given the legal issues of instructing someone to do something illegal. But in a way they already do. There are many libraries nowadays that can’t provide 100% access to the scholarly literature.”

When asked if there was anything publishers could do to stop new papers from being added to Sci-Hub, he said: “There are things they could do but they can really backfire terribly. The issue is, the more protective the publishers are, the more difficult they make legitimate access, and that could drive people to use Sci-Hub.”

Navigating Research: OUP’s whitepaper explores how users view and use reference sources

As stated in the summary of OUP’s newly released whitepaper titled Navigating Research, “this study explores users’ and librarians’ perspectives on the role of reference resources in research and teaching in today’s academic institutions. It examines how users seek contextual information and guidance for areas of scholarship as they conduct research, and how reference resources can support their work.”

Key findings include, among others:

  • recognition of ‘reference’ as a specific category is declining and users are not likely to identify ‘reference resources as those belonging to a distinct category
  • research needs of today’s researchers are moving away from basic factual information and terminology (for which free online sources are used)
  • resources offering guidance to a field of study retain appeal as a ‘bridge between introductory materials and specialized research publications”
  • resources offering guidance to a field of study are also used to support work in interdisciplinary fields
  • use of reference sources relies on their visibility and discoverability; this is likely to remain a challenge for publishers, librarians, and researchers

The whitepaper comprises three strands:

  • a review of existing literature
  • qualitative interviews with 16 librarians and 18 users (faculty and students)
  • a survey of 164 librarians

The full whitepaper may be downloaded here.

The [powerful] connection between digitalization, creativity and society

An interesting discussion is taking place in the Frankfurt Book Fair circles. This press release hints at the opportunities afforded to society through digitalization, To understand it fully, it helps to understand what THE ARTS+ is about.  It is “a fair, business festival and international meeting place for the culture and creative industries,” which launched in October 2016 during the Frankfurt Book Fair and will return in October 2017.

The goal is to exploit the potential of digitalization for creative content and to develop new business areas. International artists, opinion leaders and experts will present at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair innovative approaches from the fields of publishing, museums, architecture and design, brands and agencies.

Publishing professionals and librarians can draw inspiration from such discussions as they may lead them in the direction of new partnerships, collaborations, and initiatives with ebooks and econtent, particularly (but not limited to) those promoting visual arts. Continue reading The [powerful] connection between digitalization, creativity and society

Follett and EveryLibrary partner to advocate for K-12 Libraries

The focus of this new partnership between Follett (the largest provider of educational materials and technology solutions to PreK-12 libraries, classrooms, learning centers and school districts in the United States) and EveryLibrary (a 501c4 political action committee dedicated to building voter support for libraries) is to “return librarians to schools and expand funding equitably in districts.” Full press release below:

Follett announced today it is intensifying its support of K-12 school libraries and librarians by partnering with EveryLibrary, a Chicago-based political action committee dedicated to advocating for libraries and librarians at the state level. The Follett-EveryLibrary partnership will initially focus its work with school library associations in six states: Illinois, Washington, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Florida, and Mississippi.

Though each state effort will be different, according to EveryLibrary’s John Chrastka, the goals will be similarly focused to bring back school librarians to schools and expand funding equitably across schools and districts. Chrastka explained Follett’s support of the initiative will allow EveryLibrary to execute targeted outreach and activism in the targeted states, and help bring attention to pending bills in state legislatures, such as Pennsylvania and Nevada, which are calling for more librarians in each school. Continue reading Follett and EveryLibrary partner to advocate for K-12 Libraries

Great to see major publishers embrace alternative ebook models in public libraries, but let’s give credit where credit is due

This month, libraries across North America that work with hoopla digital will be able to provide access to some 15,000 (backlist) titles by HarperCollins, one of the ‘big five’ publishers that have resisted working with non-traditional ebook business models and adhered to the one-copy-one-user approach, resulting in less-than-ideal user experience for public library patrons. The news came the day before the official launch of the American Library Association conference in late June (see original press release here) and has already received ample coverage, much of which has revolved around statements that with this move HarperCollins was changing the game, breaking new ground, and giving libraries something exciting to look forward to.

While HarperCollins deserves credit for being the first of the Big Five (others include Penguin Random, Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster) to go a step beyond the restrictive one copy-one user model (it was also the first to provide ebooks to libraries when others weren’t ready), HarperCollins isn’t the first publisher to embrace alternative models and certainly isn’t the one that is breaking new ground with this move. In fact, as many already know, hoopla has offered the cost-per-circulation model (which pays publishers per ‘loan’ instead of paying fixed fees to acquire titles) for a few years.

What’s more, other companies and other players in the ebook market have even gone beyond this model (e.g., Total Boox, Odilo) to provide instant, simultaneous access to ebooks in libraries and beyond. The fact that this move by HarperCollins is leading so many to call it game-changing is on some level a testament to how our industry (including publishers and libraries) views and values change and innovation. We often center our sentiments on what the most powerful do. Continue reading Great to see major publishers embrace alternative ebook models in public libraries, but let’s give credit where credit is due

Business of Books 2017: A new whitepaper gives valuable insight into the state of publishing worldwide and the impact of digital and self-publishing

The Business of Books 2017 is an annual publication from Franfkurter Buchmesse that gives insight into the trends related to book publishing (traditional and digital) worldwide, including markets in North and South America, Europe, and Asia.

While the paper’s focus is on the publishing industry—particularly the trade side of it, and, unsurprisingly, the Anglo-Saxon influence of it—much insight can be gained here on many other aspects of the book industry by all who are in one way or another, directly or indirectly, involved with the book business, especially librarians, educators, independent authors, and various media companies that look to publishing (trade and educational)  to expand their offerings, particularly in the field of ebook distribution, audiobooks, multi-media, and gaming.

The white paper may be downloaded on the Book Fair’s web siteContinue reading Business of Books 2017: A new whitepaper gives valuable insight into the state of publishing worldwide and the impact of digital and self-publishing

NSR releases its summer 2017 journal issue — Ebook Purchasing in Academic Libraries: Key Issues and Emerging Trends

While the LIS industry has made great strides in improving how ebooks function in libraries the past few years, as any librarian in charge of ebook collection development can attest, ebooks are not always easier to manage than print books. They can, in fact, be more challenging. Many factors come into play and long gone are the days when librarians only needed to order particular titles based on interest or need communicated to them in advance by faculty or researchers.

In 2017, the universe of ebooks and econtent continues to grow at a dizzying rate, making it very challenging to keep up on a title-by-title basis; shrinking budgets and staff reductions have become the norm even in affluent institutions; and to remain competitive research institutions must rely on current scholarship that is constantly refreshed and available to them without restriction.

LIS journals that cover ebooks are overflowing with articles asking the same questions time and again: Can my library afford the new product or service? Will a particular method help streamline workflow? How much high-quality content is readily available? How much will my library be able to own in perpetuity? What will happen if my library doesn’t renew a subscription to a product that no longer serves its needs? Will the library have clear insight into patron usage? How well will the new product integrate into the library’s existing catalog? And, not to be overlooked: who is the content provider and what is its credibility in the library market?

This series of articles aims to elucidate some of the ebook challenges librarians in academic institutions (of all sizes) have had to grapple with in recent years in their ongoing efforts to support research. The goal here is to discuss key issues surrounding ebook purchasing and clarify some misconceptions that still persist within the industry, not only about the nature of ebooks (as explained by Frederick) but, more important, about the ebook business models offered to libraries. These models continue to evolve, of course, as librarians, publishers, and aggregators adjust their expectations and learn from experience.

Read or download the full issue of No Shelf Required’s journal on Ebook Purchasing in Academic Libraries: Key Issues and Emerging Trends here.

When ebooks are ‘free’ through libraries for two weeks (like Harry Potter)

We learned last week that Pottermore will make J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ebook available to UK library users for two weeks in order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its publication. The ebook will be available through library distribution apps OverDrive, BorrowBox from Bolinda and Askews & Holts from June 26 until July 7. During that time, the U.K. library system (which signed an agreement with Pottermore) will offer unlimited number of loans to the first book in the massively popular series.

We also learned that Pottermore is supplying participating libraries with posters, flyers, social media materials and competition ideas to help them publicize the free loans (as they are called) and, in essence, help publicize the book and the series in digital format.

Those of us who have worked with ebook vendors and engaged publishers (big and small) to consider alternative ebook business models (for consumers and especially for libraries) have long been aware of the resistance on the part of established, traditional publishing houses to expose their content digitally in ways other than through the one copy-one user model.

So when a publisher such as Pottermore decides to provide a Harry Potter title in ebook format through a library in ‘unlimited’ ways (which means no restrictions are placed on how many readers can read at the same time during the two-week period, and only during that period), the first reaction is certainly one filled with hope that a new trend may be on the horizon showing signs that publishers hesitant to embrace less restrictive ebook models in libraries are embracing innovation by making some bold digital moves. What’s more, some are touting this move as a great way to ‘support’ public libraries in the U.K., which have been struggling.

The second reaction, however, is one of hesitation. Continue reading When ebooks are ‘free’ through libraries for two weeks (like Harry Potter)

Reading by Ear: A superb collection of articles on audiobooks, audio literacy, and the art of listening

A few months ago, NSR launched the Reading by Ear column, written by audiobook and audio literacy authority, librarian Francisca Goldsmith. The column discusses audiobooks as a medium through which contemporary readers are invited to explore literary culture, performance arts, and multimodal literacy capacity building. In her thought-provoking, scholarly yet accessible writing, Francisca addresses why audiobook listening expands, rather than derails, our access to literature and the written word. She also takes on the issue of prescribing audiobooks as a ‘print reading’ support versus listening to audiobooks as a way to build information and aesthetic experiences and critical thinking about auditory experiences in their own right.

Francisca has been working in libraries for many years. Her professional background includes services and collections for teens in public and school libraries, for New Americans, and providing reference services and managing collections for adults and teens. Her contribution to No Shelf Required is immense and we are grateful to have her on board. Continue reading Reading by Ear: A superb collection of articles on audiobooks, audio literacy, and the art of listening

Europe Announces That All Scientific Papers Should Be Free by 2020

This week was a revolutionary week in the sciences – not because we discovered a new fundamental particle or had a new breakthrough in quantum computing – but because some of the most prominent world leaders announced an initiative which asserts that European scientific papers should be made freely available to all by 2020.

This would legally only impact research supported by public and public-private funds, which are a vast portion of the papers produced annually; however, the goal is to make all science freely available.

Read the rest of the story here.

Highlights from NSR’s Understanding Ebooks webinar — What publishers and librarians need to know [and can be inspired by]

The slides from last week’s NSR webinar, via the American Library Association (ALA), are available for viewing on Slideshare (or below). Thank you to ALA for the opportunity to conduct the webinar as well as to the librarians and non-librarians who attended it and who engaged in the discussion afterwards (not only live but also via private messages). As always, I learn from you and hope that I was able to inspire you to embark on new initiatives with ebooks and to consider new options for your libraries.

The goal was to present a grand overview of the vast and ever-expanding landscape of ebooks easy to understand even if you have no prior knowledge of the ebook ecosystem, its players, and the issues facing those who produce, buy and sell ebooks (and this ecosystem is large and complex).

The key questions I posed at the beginning of my presentation (that I hope I answered by the end) included:

  • How vast is the ebook landscape?
  • Who are the key players in the ebooks market?
  • How are ebooks evolving in libraries (public, academic, and school)?
  • What does the future hold for ebooks?

We examined the types of ebooks (free, vs. low-cost vs. paid-for), the sources of ebooks (extending far beyond publishers and traditional distributors), the business models in various markets, and key players and brands not only in the context of ebooks in libraries but also in the context of a larger ecosystem of e-content, of which ebooks (and libraries) are only a small part. Continue reading Highlights from NSR’s Understanding Ebooks webinar — What publishers and librarians need to know [and can be inspired by]

Key Issues Surrounding Ebook Purchasing in Academic Libraries

In an ongoing effort to cover the ebook market and its complexities, No Shelf Required has recently embarked on a mission to bring to light some of the pressing ebook issues faced by academic libraries today, clear up confusion where needed, and examine short-term and long-term benefits as well as drawbacks of the most prevalent purchasing methods and models. These are the three articles in the series so far.

Demand-Driven Acquisitions: Do Library Patrons Get What They Need?

“The last few years have seen a steady proliferation of business models used for selling and acquiring ebooks by libraries, each with a unique set of benefits and challenges, but no other model has held as much promise to give patrons what they needed—at the moment they needed it—as Demand-Driven Acquisitions (DDA), also known as Patron-Driven Acquisitions (PDA). This is because at its core, DDA places the user (the patron), not the librarian or the publisher, in the driver seat. For the first time in the history of institutional book buying, patrons decide, for a portion of titles, what the library collects, leaving publishers and vendors without the predictability they enjoyed for many decades before ebooks came around.”

Read full article here.


The Approval Plan: A Sorting Hat That Discovers the Right Books for the Right Libraries

“Has the Approval Plan stood the test of time, many now ask, as some libraries move away from buying to own to embrace the access-based services. Does the complex process of profiling (books and libraries), which stands at the core of Approval Plans, still make sense in the age of advanced technologies that track user activities in order to provide proof of what is needed without guess-work or prediction? Does the emphasis on thoughtful curation rather than on the immediate—and perhaps momentary—demand of the user put libraries at risk of developing collections that won’t be used?

Not only has the Approval Plan stood the test of time as a highly effective book buying tool—especially with the integration of ebooks—it has evolved with libraries consistently and to the point where it may not even be appropriate anymore to consider it a ‘traditional’ method. In fact, there are more Approval Plans running in academic libraries today than ever before. How is it possible, one wonders, that a method used to support buying scholarly books for over half a century continues to adapt so well to new technologies and not appear outdated?”

Read full article here.


Ebook Collections: What’s the Deal with Big Deals?

“If purchasing e-journals through big packages (so-called Big Deals) has become the norm, has it also become the norm with ebooks? What are the benefits of purchasing from aggregators as opposed to purchasing directly from publishers? What type of content do eCollections entail and how relevant is that content to today’s researchers? And what are some of the challenges faced by libraries purchasing eCollections? As we’ve seen with DDA and Approval Plans, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for any ebook model or any library—however big or small, affluent or modest—and the better we understand the possibilities afforded to libraries through packaged vs. title-by-title deals, the closer we get to an understanding that eCollections hold a significant place in ebook collection development and have, indeed, become a new version of ‘big deals’ in academic libraries.”

Read full article here.

Introducing Indies in the Library™: A new column on NSR

How does a library benefit from working with indie authors? Does working with indie authors help a library achieve its mission? How are indie authors different from vanity press authors and self-published authors? Does anyone want to read indie books, even if the library stocks them? What if they are ebooks? How does a library handle that? If a library wants to help indie authors, how can it do this? How do other libraries work with indie authors, and what can I learn from them? If I am an indie author, how can I work with libraries to further my cause?

If questions like these run through your mind, then the new NSR column Indies in the Library is for you.

The first article, The Rise of the Indie Author in Libraries, covers some surprising facts about indie authors and why librarians should take them seriously—such as that several of them have sold millions of copies of their books, and if your library cannot supply them, then your patrons will look elsewhere. Continue reading Introducing Indies in the Library™: A new column on NSR

Ebook Collections: What’s the deal with Big Deals?

In our analysis of the ebook buying methods in academic libraries, we’ve examined thus far the unexpected effects of Demand-Driven Acquisitions (DDA), a model that showed promise at its inception but eventually led librarians and publishers to question its long-term sustainability, and we’ve cleared up some confusion surrounding the Approval Plan and explained why it remains as effective for purchasing digital books as for print. If we take a closer look at these two tools for acquiring content—the former a radical departure from traditional curation-based methods of buying that places the user and his/her activity at the center of buying, and the latter a decades-old method that has stood the test of time and evolved to support new technology and new methods (including DDA)—we discover that they share one key feature: both are centered around ‘title-by-title’ purchasing. Both invite and encourage a focus on individual titles, which are ‘picked’ or ‘chosen’ for purchase either automatically based on a set of pre-determined parameters or based on usage.

This begs the question: what about the packaged collections? What about the collections of ebooks sold to libraries in bulk? What benefits and challenges await libraries choosing to bypass the process of selecting individual titles (at least to some degree, if not entirely) and welcome packaged deals? Has the availability of ebook collections (hereafter referred to as eCollections) enhanced and/or improved collection development practices in academic libraries? On the heels of recent announcements that some libraries across North America are canceling their Big Deal e-journal packages—citing inability to keep up with the rising cost of subscriptions and insufficient use of old journals that make up a large portion of those collections—it seems fitting and necessary to examine how eCollections perform as part of libraries’ acquisitions strategy in a rapidly changing ebook market. Continue reading Ebook Collections: What’s the deal with Big Deals?

New ALA webinar: Understanding Ebooks — The Challenges and the Possibilities

I am grateful for this opportunity and hope that we will bring each other to higher levels of thinking about what is possible with ebooks. MR

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  • Understanding Ebooks: The Challenges and the Possibilities
  • A 90-minute workshop
  • Thursday, May 25, 2017, 2:30 p.m. Eastern/1:30 p.m. Central/12:30 p.m. Mountain/11:30 a.m. Pacific

The popularity of ebooks exploded with the emergence of tablets and ereaders like the Kindle and has risen steadily ever since. For librarians, this growth has meant the development of a new area of service and content delivery. For the librarian who is new to ebooks and ereaders (as well as for a content creator new to digital publishing), this can be intimidating. Where do you start? How can you learn what you need to know to provide the services that your patrons expect?

In this new workshop, Mirela Roncevic, director of No Shelf Required, a well-known site on ebooks and econtent in libraries and beyond, will help you get started. Roncevic will cover ebooks from every angle, giving a practical overview of the ebook landscape that’s easy to follow no matter your experience working with ebooks or ebook vendors. Continue reading New ALA webinar: Understanding Ebooks — The Challenges and the Possibilities