Good E-books Done Well

Posted On Jul 12 2006 by

So the pace has not been exactly hectic, yet. Apologies. My plan is to post to this blog once per week, but after four straight weeks of travel in June, the best-laid plans…
Anyway, enough excuses. What’s up in the library business?

In the past, I have bristled at publishers putting up their own e-book storefronts. After all, even Elsevier would not open a brick and mortar store next to Barnes & Noble. My main complaint has been the unduly hydrophobic manner in which publishers have dipped their toes in the e-book pool: proprietary formats, proprietary hardware and software, online only content, backlist titles only, premiums added to list prices, lease instead of own, and no model for title-by-title selection.

So I was pretty excited to see that Springer is launching its own e-book platform that will address almost all of my complaints. Since it happens so rarely, I can’t help but point out a publisher finally getting a clue about e-books. Some bullet points:

  • Mixed content: journal articles, e-books (reference works, textbooks, monographs, atlases), and an e-book series organized into 12 subject categories.
  • Pricing that is highest for larger research-intensive organizations and scales down from print list price to 66% less than list price (consortial pricing is available and encouraged!).
  • An ownership model for libraries. You buy it, you own it. Put it in a repository, print a preservation copy. You sever the relationship with Springer and they will give you the XML files, including metadata, or let them continue to host the content for a very small annual fee.
  • Standards compliance: COUNTER compliant usage statistics; title and chapter level digital object identifiers; metasearch compatible with Z39.50 and SRW/SRU access; linked references in OpenURL format.
  • Available online in HTML and RSS format, or downloadable as a PDF
  • Partnerships with middleware providers are maintained. If you want to buy it from netLibrary, eBrary, Myilibrary, EBL, go ahead.
  • A usable (albeit beta) search interface, that even has Guided Navigation powered by Endeca
  • And finally…wait for it…wait for it…
    No Digital Rights Management

That’s right, you can just use the stuff, subject to copyright, just like print, e-journals, and everything else. “We’ve journal-ized the e-book environment,” says Ray Colon, Global Manager for Ebooks at Springer. And, in my mind, it’s about time someone did. It’s only a matter of time before other publishers decide to e-book-ize journals, and start putting all the DRM controls on them that have made e-books such a slow-starter over the past 10 years.

Springer has launched the beta platform with 11,000 titles, with plans to add 3,000 titles per year. I hope libraries take notice of this new platform, but I hope even more that other publishers do as well.


[This post originally appeared as part of American Libraries’ Hectic Pace Blog and is archived here.]

Last Updated on: January 19th, 2024 at 12:22 am, by Andrew K. Pace

Written by Andrew K. Pace