platform for many years, often launching their e-books straight onto their existing e-journal platform. This helps users to find relevant information across resources and simplifies linking. This trend is continuing too. For example, the publisher Brill will be launching a single e-journal/e-book platform in September in partnership with Publishing Technology. And it’s not just journals and books that
can be included. A significant part of what OECD publishes is data, and so data sits alongside e-journals and e-books on its platform. ‘We found that by far the best business model is bundling all our content together in a single knowledge base,’ noted
up and linked to other information. There are also many forays into the possibilities of adding extra functionality such as video, interactive quizzes and ways to import and manipulate data. However, this is where the idea of generalising ‘e-books’ falls down. What extra functionality users want depends enormously on the type of e-book and how it is used. It also depends on the type of device being used. For example, OECD’s e-books include data in formats that it can be used and manipulated by researchers reading the e-books. This is something that is only really relevant on the users’ PCs or laptops, which is where almost all the access to this platform comes from.
What extra functionality users want depends enormously on the type of e-book and how it is used
Toby Green, head of publishing at OECD, who added that ‘clearly volume matters. It gets easier if there is lots of content.’ Integration creates a body of information
that can be used in more ways in research than a collection of print volumes on shelves and the possibilities of this will be explored more over the next few years. Inevitably, integration with other resources
leads to a different way of using e-book information and this depends on the type of book. For reference works the chapter is an interesting entity. According to Green of OECD, even with traditional-style books the electronic format allows books to be released chapter by chapter to generate interest prior to publication of the complete book. And e-book information can be parcelled
up in an even smaller way than chapters. The most extreme example is probably the online encyclopedias and dictionaries. The Oxford English Dictionary Online launched at the Online Information show, for example, is not even described as an e-book at all; in an electronic world the concept of dictionary has become so different from what was bound in print. It is also possible to deconstruct book resources from multiple publishers to create new types of reference resources – as shown by the likes of Credo Reference (see Research Information April/May 2011).
Devices and functions Rethinking the concept of a book doesn’t stop with how the information is broken
14 Research Information JUN/JUL 2011 In contrast, other types of books where
there is a narrative-style argument lend themselves much better to e-reader devices – to fit more into the concept of a cover-to- cover read on a long train journey. Interactive quizzes fit best into e-textbooks,
which in turn could be part of a wider e-learning platform. At E-Books and E-Content 2011, Nicky Whitsed, director of library services at the Open University, demonstrated how the Open University has turned course material into e-books, incorporating videos to explain concepts. She suggested that e-books could become the catalyst for the development of a completely new type of virtual learning environment in universities. And then there are ways to take advantage
of emerging web concepts such as social bookmarking and ranking entries. The discussions at E-Books and E-Content revealed interest in combining e-books with social networking and enabling semantic tagging and searching of e-book text. The variety of devices used to access e-books is another challenge for generalising e-book trends. As previously mentioned, the type of e-book and how it is used makes a big difference. A whole chapter – or even cover- to-cover read – lends itself ideally to an e-book reader or other mobile device, while a reference resource used in conjunction with other online resources and a researcher’s own data is much more appropriate on the device they are doing their research on. One type of device worth watching for e-books in the future is the games console.
The likes of the Nintendo DS family may seem a long way from current research practice and scholarly publishing today but are the devices of choice for today’s school children who will move on to higher education within a decade. When Research Information spoke on this topic at Online Information 2010 the need to watch gaming platforms was echoed in discussions afterwards. The devices of young people are particularly interested to watch given the demographics of users of e-book readers. Steve Burrows of the Digital Reading Europe team at Sony Europe presented some figures at E-Books and E-Content, showing that the average ages of users of Sony’s e-readers in the UK were 47 and 49 for the two e-reader product lines on sale. This, Burrows noted, is significantly older than the average ages for most of Sony’s consumer electronic products.
Rights challenges What users are allowed to do with e-books is another big issue for librarians and researchers. Some publishers do not impose any digital rights management (DRM) on users. But the picture is complicated by the fact that publishers don’t have the same approach. And it is further complicated by the role of third parties in selling e-book content. As SAGE pointed out, if titles are sold through third party vendors – as SAGE’s e-books are – the DRM will depend on the vendor’s technology. This issue was echoed by Jude Norris, marketing and technology director of Dawson Books, which is an aggregator for e-books, at the meeting: ‘O’Reilly [the publisher] said that it was not going to care about DRM but we had already built our platform to care about DRM,’ she said.
Buying e-books Trends in how e-books are used in research impact how e-books are purchased. One of the hot topics at the recent UKSG event was acquisition of e-book content. One challenge for librarians with limited budgets and different needs to address is whether to opt for buying e-book collections – analogous to the journal big deals – or whether to use patron-driven acquisition (PDA), where purchases of e-books are triggered by user choices. There are benefits and challenges of both approaches. Budget planning is easier when libraries buy big collections and most large publishers offer collections of their whole book list or collections by subject area.
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