Ted Koppel raised some compelling issues during his discussions on Ebooks at the ERM Interest Group last week at ALA. In this entry ERM refers to OpenURL, A-Z list and the subscriptions module of this software. ERM software works fairly well with journal content and I believe that library online journal collections have become far more accessible with OpenURL, but how do we use our ERM systems to make Ebook content more accessible?
Koppel’s discussion raised several good questions about Ebooks and ERM. There are several management issues with Ebooks. Who supplies the cataloging/meta data? Does it come from the vendor who sells you the Ebook? How granular should the management be? Should there be restrictions at the chapter level or book level? Does the type of content determine who and what can be accessed? For example, users may only be able to access chapters for a particular text or reference book, but be able to access an entire work of fiction.
What cataloging system do we use to describe the Ebook–dublin core, MARC? Where do Ebook records reside in the Opac or the ERM, or in both systems? How is Ebook content discovered through LC subject headings or a local thesauri? How does the link resolver fit into all of this? Perhaps the link resolver can take a user to a particular paragraph or top of the chapter. How do we determine the level of granularity for accessing content?
Another management issue related to Ebooks and electronic content in general is hosting. Who host this database of content? Is it hosted locally or remotely? Who maintains the servers and performs back ups?
Koppel’s discussion raised more questions than it did answers. Given our experience in managing electronic database content, the transition to ebooks should be much easier. We know about authentication, hosting, maintenance, licensing issues, and making content accessible through OpenURL and A-Z lists. However, I’m also sure there will be unique challenges in trying to make ebook content accessible and searchable along with all the other content.
Ebooks are still in their infancy, but the experience with e-journals makes the move to ebooks much easier. I enjoyed the presentation and it did make me think about how Ebooks are similar and different from other online content, but with such a busy schedule at ALA, I haven’t had a chance to think as much about possible solutions in making Ebooks accessible. I hope to keep my notes from the session handy because I know that in the near future we will grapple more with this issue.