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Update on ebrary
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Posted On September 1, 2002
In January, ebrary launched its ebrarian 2.0 product and moved officially into the library market, offering patrons unlimited multiuser access to electronic books and documents. During the year, the company has been aggressively ramping up its efforts, providing enhancements to its service, signing additional publishing partners, marketing solidly to libraries, and securing partnerships with resellers. While ebrary may have gotten off to a rather slow start following its creation in early 1999, it certainly seems to have found its groove this year. August was a busy news month for the company, with several announcements of new content and another partnership.

ebrary reported the availability of its Spanish-language collection, which is supplied by e-Libro (http://www.e-libro.com), a leading digital e-publisher in the Spanish book market. e-Libro now provides more than 1,000 Spanish-language books online, increasing the content in the ebrarian for Libraries database to more than 13,000 searchable, full-text titles from over 130 academic, trade, and professional publishers. The Spanish collection spans academic subject areas, including business and economics, political science, and sociology, as well as important documents related to U.S. citizenship.

"ebrary's goal is to help libraries facilitate information and knowledge sharing globally, regardless of geographical or language barriers," said Christopher Warnock, CEO of ebrary. "Adding collections in foreign languages such as Spanish, which is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, is key to achieving this goal."

Moving in a new content direction, ebrary also announced that it has licensed its technology to Byron Hoyt (http://www.byronhoyt.com), a provider of musical resources, to make more than 7,000 classical sheet music and educational titles available online to libraries worldwide. Over the next few months, the Byron Hoyt collection will grow to include hundreds of thousands of pages of sheet music for bands, orchestras, instruments, and vocalists, spanning a wide range of genres from classical to jazz, country, pop, and rock.

The Byron Hoyt collection will be distributed by ebrary as a stand-alone database to libraries and may be seamlessly integrated with the ebrarian for Libraries database. Byron Hoyt and ebrary are currently accepting orders for the sheet music collection. According to the announcement, libraries that sign up by December 31, 2002, may take advantage of Byron Hoyt's introductory offer, which includes an annual subscription to the Byron Hoyt online database and 12 free CDs for $1,950.

Speaking of seamless integration, ebrary has also been working to fit into libraries' work flow and processes. ebrarian integrates with libraries' digital resources and catalog and administrative processes, specifically through full MARC records for all ebrary titles. In August, ebrary announced that SIRSI Corp., the integrated library systems vendor, will resell the ebrarian for Libraries database as part of its Unicorn Library Management System and iBistro Electronic Library products. SIRSI is currently building the necessary interface to its Unicorn system, which will make electronic copies of ebrarian for Libraries resources directly accessible to library users via iBistro. These expanded electronic resources will be available to the more than 10,000 individual libraries served by SIRSI throughout the world, as well as to new SIRSI customers.

ebrary has also been fairly aggressive in its pricing. The company is now offering the complete ebrarian for Libraries service to smaller libraries of all types for an annual flat rate of $2,000 (which includes the annual technology license fee and unlimited print/copy transactions). Eligible libraries include academic libraries with fewer than 2,500 FTE students and public libraries with fewer than 12,500 cardholders, as well as K-12 and special libraries. See the ebrary.com site for more information.

The company also provides its technology on an ASP platform, which enables publishers, media, libraries, market research firms, and other organizations to distribute documents over networks using a variety of business rules and e-commerce capabilities. In June, ebrary announced that it had licensed its platform to Stanford University Libraries and Academic Resources, which will utilize the system to ensure that reserves are available to students at any time, from the convenience of their desktops.

Late last month, I talked with Warnock, who was in Scotland for ebrary's participation in the IFLA conference. He said that more than a third of the company's customers are from outside the U.S. He also said that the company had just released version 2.3 of its ebrarian system, which provides improved internal operations on the site as well as upgrades to the search interface. He stressed the impressive growth in the collection, from just 5,000 titles in January to more than 13,000 now, with an expected 37,000 (including books, serial publications, music, maps, etc.) before the end of this year. Currently this represents content from 135 publishers, with more than 210 imprints.

ebrary is not the only company providing electronic books to libraries. netLibrary, now part of OCLC, also competes for the library market, and has a large catalog of e-books (over 42,000 copyrighted titles as of late May) as well as a large customer base. But comparing netLibrary to ebrary, according to Warnock, is like comparing apples and oranges. netLibrary is still mainly working with an ownership model for its e-books, with one title and one user at a time, though it is beginning to test some alternative access and payment models.

Warnock preferred to highlight the unique qualities offered by ebrary, viewing it as an information retrieval system and not a collection of titles. He pointed to the simultaneous multiuser access, the quality and currency of the searchable ebrary content, the affordable and flexible pricing, and the functionality of ebrary's advanced research tools. Warnock promises continued growth, more partnerships, and improvements based on customer feedback. "Watch us," he said. "We're starting to do bold things."


Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.


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