My Loser Boyfriend: eBooks

As much as I love ebooks and technology, they are like a crummy loser boyfriend.  Full of ups and downs that take you on a roller coaster of emotions only leaving you to love them one minute and hate them the next.  Just like that loser boyfriend they have money issues and sometimes I find myself humming Joan Jett, “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” when dealing with them.

Love: 

  • They are available whenever, wherever, and can’t be stolen, lost, or damaged.
  • Using ebooks I can provide information to patrons across the hospital at the time of need and they don’t have to come to the library.
  • Many ebooks can be updated more often than traditional print books.

Hate:  

  • The distribution of medical ebooks is STILL behind the public library model (and while the public library model isn’t that spectactular it runs circles around what we have). 
  • Publishers who require an ADDITIONAL logins if you are using a smart phone.  It is confusing to patrons, they don’t understand why they are being asked for a password when they are on the hospital network.  In this instance they don’t think of their phone any differently than a lap top. (ahem MDConsult/Elseveier)
  • Many ebooks are stuck in publisher silos, can’t be searched effectively.  No NORMAL person knows to go directly to StatRef to search, then AccessMedicine, then MDConsult, etc.  They just know they want a book on a topic and they want to type in the topic somewhere and be presented with a list of ALL the ebooks that has their topic.  Some librarians say…ah use the catalog.  Ptthbbb, ever try searching for a chapter topic or something else within the content of the book in the catalog?  It sucks.

Money:

  • Few companies have a few book titles that can be downloaded to a mobile device but they are way too expensive because we have to BUY the book and they don’t have a circulating model plan (ala public libraries).   Large publisher’s with books we need and pay lots of money for can’t be downloaded to any mobile device, they are web enabled…yeah patrons love hearing that. 
  • I get the idea that an online book is more expensive than in print because it can be viewed by many, but if one online title is a 1/3 of my book budget, I can’t buy it no matter how much I want to have it online.
  • We all are either scraping by on less budget or a flat budget while just trying to keep current library resources that keep getting more expensive. I have no flexibility to “try” your new product.  I don’t care if it is cool and it addresses a need, I can’t afford it.  The price might be reasonable or it might be whack-a-doodle but I still can’t afford it without dropping something.  My wish list is a mile long and it isn’t getting shorter with items that are reasonable (as well as whack-a-doodle) pricing. 

Right now we are all searching for the Mr. Right of ebooks.  Part of the difficulty is that Mr. Right for me might be Mr. Wrong for somebody else.  But our potential boyfriends (the publishers) need to step it up considerably if they want to be Mr. Right for any library because it seems many of us are unhappy and currently settling for Mr. Right Now.  

This what my patrons want (therefore this what I want):

  • eBook platforms that work on lap tops AND are downloadable to a mobile device (not web enabled to a mobile device).
    • We need the core chunk of titles that we are CURRENTLY buying from you, don’t increase the price so that one dinky little title is $2000 online and a established plain ol’ text (not a even a reference book) is $15,000.  That my friends, is whack-a-doodle pricing. We don’t buy online books like that now, making it “downloadable” at that price is not going to change our mind or our budget.
      • For example AccessMedicine, MDConsult, Ovid get your ebook platforms that we are already buying downloadable….now!
  • We are very open to the circulation model of ebooks.  Public libraries are doing it and our patrons seem to understand that concept. This is a nice alternative to buying the title and should be cheaper than buying the title.  Think of it as renting.
    • We need a collection of decent titles. Not a pittance of specialty books.  We need/want the Harrison’s, Hurst’s, DeVita’s, etc.  We need real titles, don’t shove your Big Toe Science book in there, unless we are podiatrists we don’t want them and won’t buy them.
  • Eliminate the artificial barriers for access.  We do a VERY good job of maintaining proper access to our online resources (becasue your license agreements require us).  We know better than you do who our patrons are and when to cut them off, so let us do our jobs and stop putting up extra logins while people are on network or proxied.  If our patrons get confused, they don’t use, if they don’t use we don’t buy. Plain and simple, extra loggins affect our usage stats (negatively) and we don’t buy or drop your stuff if our usage stats go down.  Remember we have wish list a mile long waiting for weakness in a product. 

Some day I hope that I am able to look back at ebooks like I do at my old loser boyfriends; a phase that I had to go through in order to meet Mr. Right.

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