07 September 2011

Another ebook partnership for ANZ libraries....

....now that we've gotten over the e-ISBN issue!

Today the company I manage publisher relationships for - James Bennett - announced a partnership with ebrary.  James Bennett has worked with EBL for seven years and they are a major supplier to the business.  And an important one.  This new ebrary partnership does not change that.  It adds to the James Bennett offer to Australasian libraries.  In future, Baker & Taylor's Blio should also be integrated with James Bennett Online (JBO) so libraries can choose their preferred ebook platform.  James Bennett also has publisher's own platforms and other digital offerings in there but there's one problem that we're waiting to see how the broader trade copes with - you know, those selling ebooks to consumers, and that is the e-ISBN issue.

We learnt the hard way about the e-ISBN issue.  Nine years ago we started working on eTitle, which was launched in January 2003.  We asked our publishing partner at the time to create individual - i.e. unique -  ISBN for each title on the eTitle platform.  They did it for the first 100 or so books they offered us but then it became one of those issues that just got bigger as we started working with digital reference and other ebook providers.  Our legacy system, which is highly customised to meet the needs of ANZ libraries, used the ISBN as the PRIMARY IDENTIFIER for the book.  As more and more ebooks started coming our way, the system started to fall down as each ISBN was linked to a vendor.  But each e-ISBN could appear in multiple platforms.  And don't start me on the publishers that used the print ISBN as the reference in their electronic databases.  To them, they didn't want to create an e-ISBN as the electronic resources were managed on separate systems within their company.  BTW I'm not talking about a small company here.  I'm talking about one that had revenues of nearly $3 BILLION last year.  But I digress.

James Bennett has taken several years to work through all the system issues associated with the e-ISBN issue.  We know publishers didn't want to create multiple ISBNs for an ebook.  Some did it by format (PDF, epub etc) but many just created one e-ISBN because they receive REPORTS from their ebook vendors and partners and it's a revenue stream in a separate way.  They can search revenue by one e-ISBN and it makes sense from their point of view - but for us - a NIGHTMARE.

Our IT guys have worked on the best way to incorporate e-ISBNs into our system, particularly JBO and our wonderful JBS profiling & selection system, that then shows the right platform depending on the customer.  There's nothing worse than sending a publisher an order for an ebook (because they sent us the e-ISBN on a data file first) and then realising it was actually meant for an ebook vendor (the publisher's data meant the ebook vendor's data failed, the record having already been on file, and linked to a publisher).  But now, we've managed to set things up so libraries can see the right e-ISBNs for their platform.

Now all we have to work on is short-term loan pricing, rentals, different pricing policies that publisher's insist on for different market segments (academic vs public libraries for example), special pricing, and normal pricing.  But that's something for another time and place. And another layer of complexity of course.... But I ramble (afterall, this is called Rachael's Ramble!).

Today it's about the e-ISBN and beating it at it's game.  We've gotten around the bibliographic data issues and the library workflows for customers.  We've integrated ebrary into our systems.  And we're ready to roll with the next cab off the rank - which hopefully should be Baker & Taylor (our parent company) Axis 360 powered by Blio.  Great product.  We love it because it's a different experience to our current ebook vendors.  At the end of the day, we're just glad we can bring multiple vendors to the Australasian library marketplace and give customers the workflows they need - and expect - from their library vendor of choice.

To read the full media release about ebrary and James Bennett please go to The Bennett Blog