4 Principles for E-book Discovery & Visibility

At the Charleston Conference, I attended an all-day preconference workshop on e-books organized by Sue Polanka of Wright State University (who runs the blog No Shelf Required), Carolyn Morris of Coutts Information Services, and Janet Fischer of Publishers Communication Group, Inc. I was especially impressed with the final talk of the day, given by Anh Bui of HighWire Press, Stanford University–probably because she said things that support the ideas in our Long Civil Rights Movement online pilot!

I would like to share my notes from Anh Bui’s talk here.  Keep in mind that they are rough; I was typing as fast as I could!  The underlining is mine.  Corrections from Ms Bui or others who attended are welcome.

4 principles for e-book discovery and visibility:

  • Openness–understand and work with search engines, note that getting into Google is not guaranteed; abandon DRM, slows usage; let users get in and out quickly and grab what they need; barriers to access and limited functionality risk pooling ebooks in a backwater of digital content; embrace standards for metadata and esp standards that make ebooks easier to reference and repurpose
  • Integration—Joining forces with ejournals and all econtent out there.  Users understand book and journal content is different, but that line is blurring; take advantage of the traffic already flowing to journal content.  Librarians talk about purchasing continuations or not-continuations; no longer referring to journals and books.  Learn from ejournals, metadata and standards, DOIs, keywords, OpenURL, full-text searching, mature abstracting and indexing services.  Explore multiple business (access) models that allow for content integration; course packs, POD
  • Repurposing—Encourage ways that users and information brokers re-use your content.  Make content “atoms” easy to grab and cite.  Provide services like downloading images to PowerPoint to encourage re-use of different types of content.  Make ebooks easier to reference; establish standards for granularity of reference; find a substitute for the page. Focus on portability, not on a particular device.  Dozens of ereader devices new ones every week; smart phones are the fastest growing ebook readers; start with format that serves multiple devices.
  • SocializationPursue the individual market.  Personalized recommendation engines, preferences.  Make smaller book parts available and deliverable. Target niche user, patron-driven acquisition.  Cultivate experts—faculty who advise and teach students; experts who write and cite both formally (in peer-reviewed papers) and informally (in blogs, tweets, etc.).  Deliver more than just the ebook:  leverage interactivity already in play, textual mashups; alerts, RSS feeds, widgets; ancillary content; complementary technologies (e.g., multimedia).  Student said video content would be more fun for study group than reading alone; helpful if could get it attached to book.  Create interactivity around ebooks:  annotations, favorites, social bookmarks, sharing; anything to encourage them to interact with it and share it with their peers is helpful.

3 Responses to “4 Principles for E-book Discovery & Visibility”


  • One of our project partners sensibly asked what information served as the basis for Bui’s statements summarized above. To answer that good question, I’ll offer a bit more of my notes from the talk. I have not yet had a chance to look up these links, but here are some of the studies to which she referred. I think she mentioned even more studies, but this was as fast as I could type!
    “Interesting data:
    JISC national E-Books Observatory
    Benchmarking survey, UK, 2008
    Deep Log Analysis Study, UK 2008-2009
    Ebrary Global Student e-book Survey, International 20008
    Cambridge Mobile Library Survey UK, 2009
    Springer eBook End-User Survey
    Etc.
    HighWire Librarian Survey—135 respondents, 115 completed the survey (85%)”

  • Based on the success by Amazon so far, I think it’s the first point: Openness is the key. We are not there yet, but eliminating DRM – or at least replace by a more acceptable copyright protection system – will certainly help.

    Also, allowing everyone to get in and out quickly and grab what they want, is very important. Amazon and other vendors are already doing this.

  • Yes, I think most publishers would agree that the current system for protecting copyright is clunky. Our online materials end up with DRM inconsistencies–we include this illustration but not that one, etc.–and we don’t like it, but we have to respect others’ copyrights as we wish to have ours respected. A huge amount of offline correspondence, negotiation, and check-writing is involved. If only there were a more consistent, automated, seamless, and less expensive way to manage online rights. Someday there will be.

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