E-Content in Libraries: 2012 in Review

2012 was a busy year for e-content: new alliances were formed among both publishers and vendors, more mergers took place, controversies surrounding ebook lending in public libraries persisted, open access initiatives showed no signs of slowing down, and the pressing need to digitize scholarly publishing gave rise to several monograph e-platforms. With each passing week, those of us keeping up with e-content were reminded that emerging technological advances continued to push the boundaries of what we thought was possible only a year before.

Our industry was challenged to rethink its own expectations about digital library environments but also dare to aim higher. We asked the same questions as in the years past: Who remained ahead of the curve? Who took the most risk? Who spoke directly to the needs of users? And who brought us products that would stand the test of time years from now?

During the slow month of December, “best lists” are released all over Library land. They give us a chance to take a break from “keeping up” and simply reflect. So let’s pause from chasing press releases and reflect on some of the most impactful digital resources released in 2012.

This A-Z list includes a spectrum of products both brand new or significantly re-vampedbrought to us in 2012 by the companies that continue to transform the way e-content is consumed in libraries across the United States and well beyond. Each is described via a brief annotation, placed in the context of its respective library market, and enhanced with links to various related posts (both on No Shelf Required and beyond) for more insight.

Stay tuned for more “year in review” coverage from Sue Polanka later in the week.


3M Cloud Library

3Mâ„¢ Cloud Library is a cloud-based ebook lending system that launched in the summer of 2011 but gained in popularity in 2012. It comprises over 100,000 ebook titles from some 40 publishers, including HarperCollins, Random House, Workman, and many more on the horizon, including Penguin. Patrons can read and check out titles at home, on the go, or via discovery terminals (or kiosks) located at the library. 3M’s business model has received kudos for allowing libraries to retain use of the content they purchase even after their contract with 3M expires. 3M’s own e-reader lets patrons try ebooks without needing to buy a device. It doesn’t require a credit card and synchronizes easily with the 3M Cloud Library.

Also of interest:

Axis 360

When ebooks started to gain momentum in libraries, print wholesalers were not equipped to handle digital transactions. But owing to new technologies, they are now able to transform their practices and develop digital media “management and circulation” platforms of their own. Baker & Taylor’s platform, Axis 360, which went live in late 2011 and received media attention all throughout 2012, makes it possible for libraries to acquire all library content in one placeespecially beneficial for libraries already using B&T for their print collections. Librarians can choose from more than 105,000 ebooks (in PDF and ePub formats) through B & T’s Title Source 3 at the same time they order print titles. The platform surfaces content on a Magic Wall and allows patrons to check out the ebooks they want.

Also of interest:

  • NSR interview with Michael Bills, B&T’s Director of Sales for Digital Products
  • More on what’s on the horizon for Axis 360
  • All about B&T’s eReader, Blio
  • LJ feature article on Axis 360 & B&T’s future as an ebook distributor
  • Huntsville-Madison County Public Library YouTube video on using Axis 360

Books at JSTOR

Books at JSTOR is an initiative by several university presses (including Yale and Princeton) to make their ebooks available as part of JSTOR, a widely-used digital platform of scholarly content founded in 1995 by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Once incorporated, the book content is cross-searchable with millions of journal articles and primary sources already on JSTOR. “Librarians have been telling us for some time now to add scholarly books,” said Books at JSTOR’s Director Frank Smith in a phone interview with Mirela Roncevic months before the official launch in November 2012.

Also of interest:

EBSCOhost & H.W. Wilson Super Databases

For those who have wondered what would ultimately happen to the revered Wilson content acquired by EBSCO in 2011, the answers came with the gradual releases of seven “super databases” in late 2012 that fully integrate EBSCO’s content and technologies with Wilson’s. The product names are as follows: Education Source, Applied Science & Technology Source, Humanities Source, Art Source, Legal Source, Biography Source, and last but not least: Library & Information Science Source. Note for libraries already subscribing to existing EBSCO and/or Wilson databases: those smaller products will continue to be available separately. According to a note on EBSCO’s web site, “while the new, merged ‘super’ databases will be made available at an additional cost, customers will NOT be required to upgrade.”

Also of interest:

Literati by Credo

An extension of the original Credo Reference platform, Literati has been marketed as “a library’s connection to information literacy” all throughout 2012. What started out as a publisher-neutral “database” back in the distant 1999, has now morphed into a “solution” that engages researchers with customized videos and tutorials. The content remains an integral part but it is significantly “enhanced” by technology. As noted in the original press release, Literati is all about bringing together three essential components of researchTechnology, Content, and Services (with on-site librarians)”to help eliminate the hurdles of discovery, education and assessment, collaboration, classroom integration and library promotion.” This translates into a power package of over 600 XML-enriched reference ebooks and over 500,000 images and audio and video clips. Credo also released a Public version of Literati in the summer of 2012.

Also of interest:

National Geographic Virtual Library (NGVL)

It is just what the name implies: a digital archive of every issue ever published by the National Geographic magazine (including the popular National Geographic Traveler),  along with a cross-searchable collection of National Geographic (NG) books on travel, science, technology, and history, available as a database exclusively to libraries as of Fall 2012. Gale Cengage seized the opportunity to partner with the nonprofit and use its delivery platform to make NG content available as a complete digital package. “The Gale platform will provide new avenues for discovering [our] content for research and learning,” said President of National Geographic Publishing and Digital Media Declan Moore at the time of NGVL’s release. NGVL’s three main components include National Geographic Magazine Archive, 1888-1994; National Geographic Magazine Archive, 1995-Current; and National Geographic: People, Animals, and the World (a collection of books, images, videos, and interactive maps).

Also of interest:

Oxford Reference & Oxford Handbooks Online 

Oxford University Press needs no introduction when it comes to digital library content. From the early stages of the e-revolution, the publisher has carefully guarded the migration of its scholarly content online. 2012 saw the releases of several familiar but significantly revamped products, including Oxford Reference (OR) and Oxford Handbooks Online (OHO). OR combines the content of two OUP resources that ceased to be available as separate entities in December, 2012: Oxford Reference Online and Oxford Digital Reference Shelf. This launch of a new product simply called Oxford Reference coincided with OUP’s 80th anniversary of the first publication of The Oxford Companion to English Literature, prompting OUP to celebrate eight decades of subject reference publishing on its web site.

Oxford Handbooks Online has two distinct identities: it is a research platform as well as a publishing platform, featuring coverage that has grown to 14 disciplines (translating to about 300 handbooks and 10,000 articles in total). The new platform enables articles to publish immediately after passing peer review, which, according to OUP’s press release, will deliver new scholarship to those who need it faster and more efficiently (see also Palgrave MacMillan’s Palgrave Pivot initiative below).

Also of interest:

Palgrave Pivot

“A new initiative from Palgrave Macmillan (PM) is breaking down the boundaries of publishing research,” was the first sentence of a press release from October, 2012, announcing the launch of a new imprint, Palgrave Pivot, with 21 titles. This innovative new approach to scholarly publishing offers authors the flexibility of publishing their research at lengths between journal articles and monographs within 12 weeks of acceptance after full peer-review. The imprint’s publications are available as ebooks for libraries, including via the publisher’s ebook platform Palgrave Connect, individual ebooks for personal use, and as digitally-produced print editions. “The artificial difficulty of publishing work that is longer than a conventional article and shorter than a book has been an anomaly for many years. Bridging this gap is an excellent idea…a concept whose time has come and was indeed long overdue,” said John Walton, Research Professor at Basque Foundation for Science.

Also of interest:

Rosen Interactive eBooks

Rosen reaffirmed its status as a leading publisher of digital content for K-12 library markets in 2012, having successfully launched a series of interactive ebooks designed to meet the needs of the Common Core and AASL standards as well as to support transliteracy skills among Pre K through 6th grade students. The 120 nonfiction titles range in subjects from Geography and Language to Religion and the Arts and can be explored online by individual students or entire classrooms. The embedded Digital Content Creation Tools allow students to create storyboards and blogs, write book reviews, emails, and post cards, and even build wiki pages and web sites. Librarians can purchase ebooks a la carte style or in bundles. Since Rosen publishes more than 700 new books each year and has a backlist of more than 7000 titles, the “interactive” list will likely grow at a rapid pace in the months to come.

Also of interest:

SAGE Knowledge

2012 was a big year for SAGE Publications. Just last October, SAGE announced the purchase of primary sources publisher Adam Matthew at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which marked the company’s second acquisition in 14 months, following the purchase of UK-based independent publisher Learning Matters in August 2011. SAGE also unveiled the new digital face of its e-platform, formerly known as SAGE Reference Online and now known as SAGE Knowledge, which houses all of the book and journal content owned by the publisher. Billed as “the ultimate social sciences online library” for students, researchers, and faculty, the platform boasts 2,750 titles and includes 300-plus key reference works (about 150 new titles are added each year). All of SAGE’s imprints are represented, including CQ Press and Corwin.

Also of interest:

  • NSR Post about SAGE’s growing portfolio
  • NSR interview with SAGE’s Lettie Conrad about the new platform
  • More on SAGE Navigator, a new Social Sciences Literature Review Tool set to launch in Spring 2013
  • All about Corwin’s new ebook platform for K-12 educators

University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO)

UPSO is a partnership between Oxford University Press and a number of university presses (including Fordham, University of Florida, and, as of late, Stanford University) to aggregate monograph content into a single, cross-searchable platform featuring XML format. OUP set the stage for digitization of scholarly monographs back in 2003 with the launch of Oxford Scholarship Online, now fully integrated with the book content of ten partner presses on the new UPSO platform. The platform offers 10,000-plus titles available in 24 subject areas, over 300 sub-disciplines, and about 11,500 authors from over 50 countries. Unlike rival platforms, UPSO does not currently integrate journal content with books. “Our platform is geared toward long-form scholarship,” said Rebecca Seger, OUP’s Director of Institutional Sales for the Americas, in a phone interview with Mirela Roncevic in late 2011. “The full book is an argument, and we want to preserve that.”

Also of interest:

  • OUP-produced video offering librarian perspectives on UPSO
  • OUP’s recent partnership with Stanford University
  • Sue Polanka’s ONLINE Magazine article on university presses and ebooks

University Publishing Online (UPO)

Like UPSO (above), UPO is a platform hosted by a university press with a long history of scholarly publishing, but it casts the net wider in terms of the type of content provided. The result of a joint venture between Cambridge University Press and partner publishersincluding Liverpool University, Mathematical Association of America, University of Adelaide Press, Boydell & Brewer, and othersUPO integrates scholarly books (including textbooks and professional books) with journal articles on a single platform. “Our goal is to remain as flexible as possible in terms of the type of content we provide,” said Hannah Perrett, CUP’s Strategic Development Director for Digital Publishing in an email to Mirela Roncevic at the time of UPO’s release. A list of titles is available for download (in Excel or CSV formats) on UPO’s home page.

Also of interest:

UPCC Book Collections on Project MUSE

The Project MUSE initiative is the result of a partnership with the University Press Ebook Consortium, which includes Johns Hopkins University Press (the host institution), New York University, and over 60 others. The new business model allows participating publishers to select the titles they want to offer annually on the MUSE platform. “We developed the name University Press Content Consortium [for the partnership] to signal to the market that book and journal content coming together was only the beginning,” said Dean Smith, Director of Project MUSE, in a phone conversation with Mirela Roncevic in late 2011. “In the future, we will transform the platform yet again to include reference works, datasets, multimedia, annotation, collaboration, and commenting features.”

Also of interest:

VitalSource Bookshelf

VitalSource Bookshelf® is the most used e-textbook platform in the world and, unsurprisingly, Ingram’s fastest growing business. It has about 2.7 million registered users on 6000 campuses in 180 countries. When it was announced just weeks ago that 60 new publishers have added more than 35,000 new digital textbooks and online course materials to the platform, the product and the company cemented their leadership roles in e-textbook distribution. “We are experiencing significant growth in the number of publisher, institutional, and reseller customers using the platform,” said Kent Freeman, COO of Vital Source Technologies, at the time of the announcement. The most recent publishers to join VitalSource include 14 of the most recognized university presses. The platform can be accessed online or via download on a variety of device types including Mac, Windows, iPad, and Android.

Also of interest:

  • NSR post about addition of 60 publishers to VitalSource
  • An addition of Android App to VitalSource
  • Partnership between VitalSource and Blackboard Learn
  • Vital Source acquisition of VPG Integrated Media, specializing in enhanced e-textbooks



Mirela Roncevic is an independent content developer, writer, and editor. She contributes articles and stories to NSR on reference and digital publishing and content development. She’s also co-editor of forthcoming ALA journal, eContent Quarterly. Publishers and content aggregators may send all PR materials directly to Mirela at mirela@mirelaroncevic.com. Follow her on Twitter @MirelaRoncevic.

3 thoughts on “E-Content in Libraries: 2012 in Review”

  1. Thank you so much for this review – I’ve just discovered some new resources our library might look at! Also, we just subscribed to Literati and are really excited about the possibilities of this solution.

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