Week 5
Beginning 18th July 2011
This is the week of the Jobs-to-be-done workshops. We got great input for the project team on Thursday and our wider group on Friday. Next week (beginning 25th July we'll be analysing the outputs. Here is my impressionistic and very preliminary 'thesis' so far:
Role of metadata in the discovery selection and acquisition of ebooks

The 'thesis' so far.....23rd July 2011 Ken Chad

Primary aim of the project

Understand the motivation for patrons recommending or requesting the purchase of ebooks

Typically patrons will not be aware they are initiating a PDA. From the user's point of view 'selection' is simply differing forms of access to the content (such as browsing, downloading content (such as a chapters). These different forms of 'access' are used to contribute to a trigger point where the library buys the ebook. So at the heart of the various PDA models is a business model that takes a granular approach to usage and make differential charges. It's really a version of the well understood 'freemium' business models whereby users (and really here the user is the library) gets a free basic service that encompasses, for example, limited free browsing. The library get charged for 'added services’ tat the end user can have . One of these might be a 'short term loan' for which the library pays a (relatively small- percentage of book purchase price) fee. The steps (manifested by user ‘click’) progress to the 'premium' service of full (or at least less restrictive--subject to the inevitable DRM) use initiated by a library purchase of (or actually a license for) the ebook

Patrons may be aware they are engaged in PDA in those few institutions that have initiated a mediated library approach in order to ration demand. (I need to talk to Newcastle about this to better understand how this looks for the users point of view. I think they should be a case study)

Motivation scenarios were explored in the workshop. The motivations of the end user are linked to the benefits of ebooks as described by librariesn---ie in terms of access 24/7, availability off campus, immediate access.

In essence the motivation for the end user is to simply get access to the best content for the job to hand. In this context the ebook rationale for libraries plays its part:

  • Textbooks: at the moment ebooks have a limited role as textbooks primarily because publishers remain reluctant to make textbooks available as ebooks
  • (Core) course reading: this is seen as the key role. Electronic texts are inherently more flexible than print in terms of availability (eg off campus and 24/7) and in being (technically at least) 'non rival'- ie can be used simultaneously. The latter of course may come at a price.
  • Research: Elsevier in particular made the point about how ebooks have a role in research

The JISC ITT also had this to say:
Alternative routes such as reading list recommendations or direct requests from academics and students often lack information as to what leads to these recommendations. It may be that the academics making recommendations (or direct requests) for the purchase of e-books were basing their request on the assumption that a known book had an e-version; in some cases, they may have direct knowledge that such a version is available. Undergraduates and postgraduate students may request and ebook in response to suggestions from teachers or supervisors, or they may base the request on the existence of a print book and seek an e-book version for some perceived benefit, perhaps because they have acquired an e-book reading device. It is also possible that faculty are acquiring e-books from departmental budgets, and that the library may be in ignorance of these acquisitions, which are held on departmental, or personal, PCs, as well as locally acquired e-book devices.

We need to address the role of various forms of recommendations :

  • Reading lists: On the whole it seems that reading list material will be bought by the library anyway—ie outside the scope of PDA
  • Recommender services; these (bX and BibTip) are still rare in a library context in UK HE and I don't see them in use at yet in UK HE in the context of ebooks
  • Recommendations from others (peer group etc)-using for example social networking tools: We don't know what going on here .

These areas will be further investigates in the focus group with end users and also the stakeholder interviews with academics-the latter especially regarding reading lists

Additional Aims

Identification of role of metadata in the discovery, selection and acquisition process when it is primarily driven by the patron

And further on the JISC ITT says: A lack of understanding on the motivation for the discovery, selection and acquisition that underpin the demand-driven acquisition of e-books means that librarians and publishers are unable to identify the role that metadata plays, nor ensuring that it is available in appropriate forms at each stage of the process.

My sense is that the discovery, selection and acquisition may not be driven primarily by the end user. Whilst they may 'pull the trigger' the library retails extensive control by managing what resources are available discovery. The role of the library catalogue is key.

Libraries use metadata to exert considerable control by profiling what records are made available in the first place or may delete records afterwards so they cannot be discovered. Metadata used for profiling may include subject, publication date (ie not before yyyy) , language, country of publication (eg ‘no US publications). At the moment the primary route to ebooks is the library catalogue so this control is exercised by constraining the MARC records that are loaded into the catalogue. And here a key metadata element is the identifier. They are need to alert for duplicates and also to relate various versions. At the most granular level the isbn agents in the UK (Nielsen) are demanding a unique isbn for each 'tradable' product. That would mean the 'same' ebook on different platforms would have a different isbn. But how would that work when looking for duplicates?