Earlier this month, Kate Davis posted about the massive leap forward in eBooksover the past 12 months from the perspective of an end-user. The past 12 months have also seen a number of leaps in eBook products available to libraries, new pricing models, and usability for eBook users, but not always in the direction libraries would prefer.
Librarians are working more than ever to understand and meet user expectations, but the products available to libraries don't always provide the best fit to meet these needs whether because the interface lacks in usability, or because licensing is unfavourable. Publisher-initiated changes including the move to restrict eBook download to the library premises in the UK (Overdrive) and limited checkouts per title (HarperCollins)have made headlines not just in the library media, but in mainstream media.
Reaction from librarians has ranged from anger to resignation that the game has changed. The majority in the middle, however, see a role for librarians to to be a partner with vendors rather than merely a customer as models evolves, and to advocate for better licensing terms that benefit both library users, and publishers.
Librarians at every level can get involved, from learning more about licensing on a practical level, to following broader trends that will impact libraries and the way content is delivered in the future. Licensing of eBooks is not just the domain of eResource librarians, but of every librarian that works with users. Initiatives like Library Renewal in the US will produce research on future content models. Closer to home, monitor intellectual property aspects of draft agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the work of the Australian Digital Alliance and the Australian Libraries' Copyright Committee. On an international level, IFLA has been working to develop a Draft Treaty on Copyright Exceptions and Limitations for Libraries and Archives at WIPO.
In many countries, including Australia, local publishers are underrepresented in the eBook market. If a publisher you purchase from does not yet offer eBooks, meet with them. Work with them to develop a business model that would work for you and your users. Purchase materials in a range of languages and in accessible formats.
I've had a number of conversations with librarians in different countries about eBooks over the last few months. There are very few places where libraries are not already investing in eBooks. Awareness and engagement with content and licensing issues is far higher than I recall it being when I last worked at the reference desk. Now is the time to turn awareness into action and to secure the role of electronic content in libraries.
Fiona Bradley is based in the UK as a Programme Coordinator for IFLA and tweets as @Fiona_Bradley