ebrary (http://www.ebrary.com) announced that it has launched ebrarian 2.0 with some pilot library customers. It will globally roll out ebrarian 2.1 with advanced features specifically for libraries in the first quarter of this year. ebrarian 2.0 marks the company's first official move into the library market. In the first version of ebrarian, ebrary had worked with technology partners McGraw-Hill Primis Custom Publishing and Pearson's Learning Network to distribute content to customers. ebrary also announced that it has partnered with three more prestigious academic publishers to provide access to full-text copyrighted titles.
The pilot library customers that are offering ebrarian to their patrons are Stanford University Libraries & Academic Information Resources; the Yale University Library; and the Peninsula Library System, which is a consortium of 34 public and community college libraries in northern California. These libraries will be providing their patrons with unlimited, multiuser access to books and documents in Adobe PDF from more than 100 publishers that have partnered with ebrary to make their content available.
According to ebrary CEO Christopher Warnock, the company has spent the last year and a half talking with librarians about delivering an information product that meets their needs. ebrarian allows libraries to augment their existing collections with ebrary's digital collection through tools that are already being utilized. Library patrons can use content from the digital collections through their Web-based OPAC system the way they have been using other library collections. ebrarian integrates with libraries' existing work flow, digital resources, and catalog and administrative processes, specifically through full MARC records for all titles in the ebrary repository. Warnock stressed that another advantage for libraries is that there are no viewing restrictions on the number of simultaneous users of a specific title or content.
ebrary's InfoTools technology makes it easy for patrons to find and use the information they need and interact with content at the word level. Patrons can do full-text searches within a specific document or of all available documents in the ebrary repository. They can also search by author, title, publisher, or subject. The new ebrarian now offers online annotations, highlighting, and bookmarking. And with InfoTools, libraries can create custom links to the knowledge resources of their choice, including definitions, biographical information, maps, and translations, as well as other digital resources within the library.
"ebrary's goal is to help libraries cost-effectively and efficiently expand their collections beyond their physical shelves, while providing new distribution and revenue opportunities for our publishing partners," said Warnock. "We are all very excited that Yale, Stanford, and Peninsula Library System have chosen our solution and look forward to continually working with them and libraries worldwide to meet their growing needs for digital information and resources."
ebrary's service is delivered via a custom Web site that the company creates, hosts, and maintains. Libraries use a 500 KB software plug-in for their patrons' machines. The Web sites do not have advertising and they can be customized with libraries' logos and branding. Another benefit of the service for libraries is that they can use real-time activity reports to gain information on usage and transactions in order to make more informed collection-development decisions.
ebrary charges an annual license fee for implementation, a technology license, and maintenance. Pricing varies depending on the type of library and its size. Costs for academic and special libraries range from $1 to $1.50 per FTE (full-time equivalent); the cost for public libraries is about 5 cents per user. Additionally, the company charges for blocks of print/copy transactions, which enable it to compensate its publishing partners. Print/copy transactions cost approximately 15 to 50 cents per page. The exact rate is determined by ebrary's publishing partners. Libraries can prepay for blocks of print/copy credits (at a 30-percent discount) in $500 increments, and can purchase additional blocks when that is used up.
At the ALA Midwinter Meeting 2002, ebrary announced that all libraries that sign up for ebrarian prior to February 28, 2002 would receive print/copy credits worth approximately 25 percent of the total service price. During this time frame ebrary is also offering a cap on its service: Academic libraries of any size can offer the ebrarian service to patrons for no more than $9,500 per year. Special ALA rates will be renewable through June 30, 2003.
Warnock emphasized that ebrarian protects copyright and gives people a viable option for fair use. Viewing is freely available but patrons can choose to pay for the convenience of a copy, which then justly compensates the publishers on a per-use basis. At Stanford, students pay for printing a copy or cutting and pasting text, just like making a photocopy. At some of the other library installations, the libraries are subsidizing copying for their patrons.
The ebrary collection currently includes 5,000 titles, admittedly a modest number. But according to Warnock, these are high-quality titles and the list will grow quickly. He noted that ebrary currently has some important new titles that are not yet available in print format. The majority of them have been published in the last 3 years, but the collection also contains some of the Penguin Classics titles. Participating publishers include The McGraw-Hill Companies, Random House, Penguin Classics, Taylor & Francis, Yale University Press, John Wiley & Sons, Greenwood, and many others. The three new publishers just added are Harvard University Press, Cornell University Press, and Indiana University Press.
Publishers can benefit from the recent enhancements to ebrarian. Now, in addition to the print/copy pricing business model, they can also opt for subscription or pay-per-view models if they choose. "ebrary has a unique business model that enables us to tap new, highly targeted online markets without cannibalizing our traditional sales channels or jeopardizing copyrights," said William Sisler, director of Harvard University Press. "By partnering with ebrary, we can profit from securely distributing our titles to libraries and other markets that are purchasing both digital and hard-copy materials. We look forward to working with ebrary on this exciting new venture."
ebrary is still not announcing a launch date for its ebrary.com site. Warnock stressed that it is not really intended as a destination site but is designed to showcase the possibilities of the ebrarian platform.
The new launch into the library market could prove to be very successful for ebrary. The timing for ebrarian 2.0 might just be right, especially given the lukewarm reception accorded to e-books that must be purchased individually and read by only one person at a time, usually on special e-book devices.