The Guide to Library Ebook Vendors

January 29, 2014

A large crowd gathered on Sunday afternoon for “ALA Masters Series: ReadersFirst Guide to Library E-Book Vendors and More,” an introduction to a new resource developed by the ReadersFirst Working Group that will help public librarians evaluate ebook vendors.

Rachel Wood, materials division chief of Arlington (Va.) Public Library, and Michael Santangelo, electronic resources coordinator for BookOps Library Services Center, the shared technical services of the Brooklyn and New York public libraries, detailed the history of the group, which first came together in June 2012 to address challenges faced by librarians regarding ebook access. Over the course of a year of research, they found that ebook and e-content availability and distribution is fragmented and disjointed. The ReadersFirst Guide was created to remedy the problems.

Santangelo said the group decided that it wanted to create a rating system for library ebook platforms and distribution systems that would identify successful programs and those that needed improvements. The guide would cater to three audiences: libraries purchasing systems; libraries creating their own ebook systems; and vendors, who can use the guide to gain feedback from libraries using their systems. Overall, the group hopes the guide will be a collective voice for the library world, he said.

Santangelo also gave an in-depth description of the methodologies used to create the guide. The group set up a list of possible tech requirements for library ebook systems; voted on the prioritization of those systems; and created a vendor product survey that was distributed to vendors and libraries. Vendors were judged on ease of use, metadata issues, circulation transactions, patron account information accessibility, patron notification capabilities, e-content format, admin support, and user anecdotes. The working group collected the data and scored the vendors on the aforementioned criteria. Vendors included in the first edition of the guide include Baker and Taylor Axis 360, Ebsco eBooks, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Ingram MyiLibrary, OverDrive, ProQuest ebrary, and 3M Cloud Library.

Santangelo said that the group views the guide as a living entity that will be updated often. “We move as the technology moves,” he said. This vision for the future complements the group’s overall mission. “We created this guide to let patrons know we love them, and we are working to provide a good system for them.” The work is paying off, too. Santangelo noted that, as the group collected and scored data, they noticed that scores for individual vendors were going up as the study progressed—an indication that the quality of product was getting better. 

The ReadersFirst Guide to Library E-Book Vendors can be downloaded for free at

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