Tuesday, 21 August 2012

e-Books - where are we up to?

Following a number of enquiries I thought that I would provide you with an update as to where PLS is up to on the path to providing State-wide access to e-Books.  The short answer is that we're nearly there, but I wanted to give you a bit more information about the process & outcome.

A working party in 2011 identified what the ideal solution would be for the network & PLS used this as the basis for considering what was available in the marketplace at the time.  The reality was that no company provided everything that the working party was looking for, and only one company provided the bare minimum expectation of having a mix of e-books and e-audio content from a single platform. In February PLS reported this to the PLSA Executive and gained the Executive's approval for PLS to pursue a contract with this single supplier. 

Given the decision to pursue a single supplier PLS needed to go through an approval process inside our Department. This process took several months, &  in May PLS gained the necessary approvals  to adopt this procurement approach.  Since that time we have actively pursued a contract with provider to deliver as much of what the working party was looking for as is currently possible. This has necessitated engaging lawyers to work on the contract with us to ensure that the best interests of the Libraries Board (the contract signatory on libraries' behalf) were protected. However, as you can imagine, the company also has its minimum expectations and also has contracts in place with publishers that it has to honour. 

After several contract iterations we have closed the gap between our position and the company's to the point where I am confident that we will have a contract signed in the near future.  The company tells us that from contract signing to product availability takes up to 3 months.  And while this seems quite a time, there is work to do in designing a delivery website and setting everything in place.

The next big question is; How will e-content be delivered?
At this stage the e-content will be available from a stand-alone website, that will require people to log in and download their e-content.

In the medium term we will be looking to deliver e-content through the One Card LMS, using the e-Resource Central product that SirsiDynix is developing.  This will provide authentication against the LMS customer database and also manage many of the download and Digital Rights Management (DRM) issues that seem to make e-content access complex.

As well as managing DRM this product will also show all e-content records in the discovery layer Enterprise.  And with the faceted searching customers can select to just search for e-books or to include them in a more general search.

It is likely that we will have e-Resource Central in place before all libraries are on the One Card system, so it is likely that we will have to run a hybrid access model, with some customers gaining access through their One Card membership, while others will still need to go to the stand alone e-content website.

As soon as we have a signed contract we will be delighted to provide more details regarding the company, the product, the range of titles that will be available & how the public will access the system etc.


  1. Hi Geoff,

    What criteria was used to evaluate available content, both now and moving forward?

    1. Hi Craig,
      The group of public librarians who got together to develop the specification came up with a minimum requirement for the range of products and the effectiveness of the solution. This minimum requirement was (quoting from the specification):
      "Below is a listing of the minimum requirements for the procurement:
      • eBooks in fiction and non-fiction
      • eAudio in fiction and non-fiction
      • eAudio professionally read – pre-recorded
      • accessible on a number of devices
      • ability to place reservations/holds
      • proven supplier in the market."

      The group did not get down to evaluating "available content" as they found that only 1 supplier met this list of minimum expectations.

      However, having chosen a supplier that meets this minimum expectation PLS will call for expressions of interest from libraries to be part of a selection panel to develop the selection profile for the network and then to expend the funds available.

      I expect that we will add further suppliers over tinme to meet niche parts of our needs, but in the 1st instance we will be able to offer a wide selection of popular materials - which I figure is a pretty good place to start.