by Audrey Powers (Associate Librarian, University of South Florida Libraries)
Digital disruption of library resources and services has been taking place for approximately half of a century. As each new electronic library resource or service is developed and implemented, skepticism leads the way. Over time we become accustomed to incorporating these changes into our workflows, and our professional lives settle down for a short while until the next big disruptive technological event or product challenges our way of thinking and conducting business.
As I reflect on this progression of events, it occurred to me that we continually repeat the same process; products are developed, implemented, assessed, and improved. Yet lack of standardization from the beginning of the process inhibits our ability to compare and measure the effectiveness of the technology in question. Only then do we insist on standards that aid us in making effective decisions for our libraries and our patrons. This is a long and arduous process.
This is the process we went through with the development and implementation of databases, electronic journals, and online public access catalogs. Over time standard elements in most article databases have evolved, i.e. basic and advanced search options, faceted classification and navigation, numerous methods to refine a search, etc. Keep in mind, the use of information retrieval systems by librarians in specialized fields began in the early 1980s. It takes time to monitor user behavior, implement revisions, monitor user behavior, and further refine and improve products.
In addition, the development and implementation of usage statistics have taken an inordinately long time to come to fruition. The development and use of eBooks began in 1971 with Project Gutenberg, the development and use of databases began in the early 1980s, and COUNTER set the standard for reporting use statistics in 2003.
Are there elements we can agree on from the onset of product development as technology rapidly advances? As the ongoing growth of digital content shapes our professional lives and alters our work environments, what can be done to make navigating the digital landscape more manageable for everyone?
As you read through the articles in this issue of Against the Grain keep in mind how incorporating eBooks into our collections has disrupted our way of thinking, working, and conducting business. How we can proactively engage developers and sellers of eBook platforms to develop products that will promote effective decision making for our libraries and patrons?
The goal of this issue is to provide a succinct overview of eBook platforms for academic librarians as well as insights into where eBook platforms are headed in the future. Most of the authors work in academic libraries, and their job responsibilities include developing, procuring, promoting, and educating users about eBooks. The topics covered include an overview of eBook platforms including technical aspects and business models, lending platforms, aggregator platforms, commercial publisher platforms, and university press platforms. It is our hope that when you read these articles it will add to your knowledge base about the current and future state of eBook platforms in academic libraries.