At the American Library Association (ALA) 2016 Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, ALA’s Digital Content Working Group (DCWG) offered a program in which three experts covered three important e-content topics: user experience, preservation, and standards.
Michael Blackwell, director of the St. Mary’s County (Md.) Libraries, urged the library community to demand simplicity from content providers and platform developers by putting the user at the heart of the experience and by providing genuine integration of e-content. The e-content field is dynamic, and just as some standards and practices are implemented, new vendors and new standards demand new types of interoperability. Deploying application program interfaces (APIs) at a low cost contributes to and creates better interoperability, Blackwell said. As the community has relied on early e-content delivery through OverDrive and Amazon, a new future is opening before us. Platforms such as Library Simplified and SimplyE for Consortia offer a three-click user experience and a streamlined front end.
Trevor Owens, senior program officer for the national digital platform at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, spoke on the necessity of digital preservation. Digital preservation is complex and can be overwhelming, so standards are crucial. The National Digital Stewardship Alliance has defined and developed levels of preservation and suggested ways the guidelines can be used. Preservation offers an opportunity for education, training, and services at state, regional, and national levels. Systems such as Hydra-in-a-Box might be developed into scalable service models. We know a lot about preservation, Owens said, we just need to do more.
Standards were also the subject of Todd Carpenter’s presentation. Carpenter, executive director of National Information Standards Organization (NISO), noted that the Kindle was launched 10 years ago. Mobile devices, tablets, and smartphones have propelled ebooks forward, requiring ongoing review of standards. Behind the scenes, publishers today are creating content based on web distribution models. Carpenter touched on the proposed merger between the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). W3C works on web standards, whereas IDPF engages in electronic publishing and consumption of content. In one way, the merger makes sense because of some operational and development issues, but he believes it raises the fundamental question of what is a publisher.
NISO is working on three projects. In response to the Adobe Digital Editions encryption problem in October 2014, NISO launched a project to bring publishers, vendors, and the library community together to find a framework that balances issues of privacy and user services (personalization). Also under consideration is a working group on best practices for ebook metadata. The group would review all the ebook metadata from descriptive cataloging to digital data, including file format, preservation metadata, digital rights management, and rendering. Volunteers will be sought in the next few months. Queens (N.Y.) Library has also approached NISO about how to build out and standardize its API work with vendors to benefit the library, publisher, and vendor community.