September 20, 2017

Ebooks and Downloadable Audio Making Progress

By Michael Rogers

Vendors/publishers increasing access and adding hotter titles to lure readers

Though it seems like we’ve been hearing about the ebook and downloadable audiobook revolution for years, it still has yet to truly take off. Progress, however, is being made: vendors continue to develop new products, and a top genre publisher is ramping up its offerings with material that should prove more desirable than previous titles.

OverDrive, which features 75,000 audiobook, ebook, music, and video titles, has initiated a Download Standing Order Plan (DSOP) that ‘enables libraries to automatically add frontlist audiobooks from several publishers, including Books on Tape, Listening Library, Blackstone Audio, Brilliance Audio, BBC Audiobooks America, HarperCollins, and Hachette Book Group, on or before their release dates.’ Libraries, the vendor said, select the number of titles they want added automatically to their collections each month. Standing orders can be revised.

Get records early

David Burleigh, OverDrive’s director of marketing, explains, ‘Once the collection development librarian signs up for the DSOP, he/she will receive an official notice two weeks prior of the titles that will be live in their collection in the following month. If the bibliographic records are available at that time (as well as the MARC records, which may be purchased), the titles will be added to their collection, and patrons can start building holds but not yet download the title, which doesn’t go live until release date.’

Meanwhile, librarians can also browse the OverDrive catalog to see which big-name authors and other popular titles are scheduled for release in the coming months and thus may be available to be added to their collection even sooner than the two-week window. They can order the preliminary bibliographic records for their collections, which allow patrons to place holds. Many of these expected blockbusters will be available up to three months in advance of release date.

Harlequin’s big push

Ebooks have found a niche in reference and other nonfiction-dominated areas but are still looking for a handhold among popular fiction readers. Genre rules, and romance is the absolute monarch, so top romance publisher Harlequin may give fiction ebooks the jump-start they need. Harlequin’s own budding romance with ebooks is erupting from a fling to a full-blown affair. The publisher announced previously that it is making its complete frontlist available electronically.

Now, Publishers Weekly reports that in terms of titles, Harlequin is catapulting from a mere nine ebooks monthly to roughly 120. The romance house has had ebook programs for two years, including ‘Minis,’ 10,000-word short stories that can be downloaded for as little as 99¢ (LJ 6/1/07, p. 27), and has an ebook store on its homepage (ebooks.eharlequin.com). The electronic releases will cost less than their print counterparts and will be available in Adobe, MobiPocket, Microsoft Reader, Sony, and Palm formats. If Harlequin finds success, other genre publishers may follow suit, giving ebooks the boost they need to gain consumer acceptance.

JISC study

Following the hook-’em-while-they’re-young theory, Ingram Digital Group’s MyiLibrary unit, a digital content provider, has been contracted by Britain’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) to provide British higher-ed students with free access to ebooks for a two-year study. Students will have access to 26 textbooks, selected by academic librarians, in the areas of business and management, engineering, and media studies. Major textbook publishers providing content include Pearson Education, Taylor & Francis, Elsevier Science, Palgrave Macmillan, Cambridge University Press, and Thomas Telford.

According to MyiLibrary, the JISC national ebook observatory project will study ‘what happens when these ebooks are freely available to students [and asks] [h]ow will they find them? Will they use them? Will the ebooks impact their learning?’ The results should give publishers insight into the impact of ebooks on traditional print and tips on how to create ebooks that will engage the digital native, as well as pricing models. It should also generate info for libraries with regard to promoting ebooks in their collections. MyiLibrary will also be ‘reviewing usage statistics with publisher partners and the higher-ed community to explore further opportunities to increase ebook take-up and development.’

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