ebooks meeting for College librarians

The ebooks@cambridge Advisory Group is holding a meeting for College librarians this Thursday, 28th February.

There will be an update from the Advisory Group, a short demo, and discussion on how ebooks fit into collection development and College libraries of the future.This is an opportunity to ask questions about ebooks and ebooks@cambridge, give feedback to the Advisory Group from your library, and join in the discussions which will help to shape the service of the future. Please do come along or send a representative from your library.

Date: Thursday, 28th February

Time: 10.30 refreshments for an 11am start

Venue: Lucy Cavendish College, Wood_Legh Room, Strathaird Building

Coffee and tea will be available.

(Wood_Legh Room is in the Strathaird Building, which is the last building on the left hand side when you turn into College from Lady Margaret Road. There is car parking available on the right hand side of the private road as you turn into College, although spaces are limited.)

Directions to the college are available.

A meeting for Faculty and Departmental librarians is being held on Tuesday 5th March at 2pm in the Judge Business School, there will be a separate post about this later this week.

University Library staff are very welcome to attend either meeting.





ebooks and accessibility; “readable with eyes, ears and fingers”

Last week I attended the one-day conference “E-books and accessibility : ugly duckling or adolescent swan?” at Senate House in London. This was an excellent event organised by JISC TechDis, EDItEUR and the UCL Centre for Publishing, for librarians, disability resource staff and publishers. I was keen to find out more about providing a better service obtaining accessible ebooks for those students with some kind of print impairment, a service which the ebooks@cambridge team has been involved with since May 2012, in consultation with the lovely people at the DRC.

jisc_techdis_logo_2012The event started with a powerful demonstration by James Scholes, a Computing undergraduate student from Leeds Metropolitan University who demonstrated using text-to-speech software on two ebook platforms. The first was inaccessible for his software as the PDF was locked by DRM, the text would not translate to speech and repeatedly we heard that access was denied (this is an ebook platform popular in Cambridge). The second ebook unprotected file was accessible and worked well, converting the text to speech, the images and tables in the book were alt tagged so also navigable.

Next we heard from Stephen King, President of the Daisy Consortium and Group Director at RNIB who explained how the Daisy Consortium was actively influencing publishers and standards to produce ebooks that were accessible for everybody. EPUB3, a new standard for ebooks (improving on the attributes of reflowable PDFs), has accessibility built in from the ground up. This version is for everybody, efficient and affordable for all, readable with eyes, ears and fingers, with no need for modification. Stephen said that publishers need to think seriously about producing ebooks in a format, i.e. EPUB3, from the start of the publishing process. Librarians need to tell ebook providers and publishers that accessibility is crucial and build this criteria into our procurement policies. daisy

Alistair McNaught (JISC TechDis) then spoke eloquently about alternative formats in the real world of higher education and how they were obtained and used by librarians or disability resources staff. He mentioned that there are many more dyslexic learners than those with severe visual impairments, but due to lack of resources they are often ignored. Alistair focused on research carried out by CLAUD, a group of HE librarians in the South West, working to help create libraries accessible to people with a disability. He made the point that if publishers only receive a few accessibility requests they are not incentivised to invest in improvements, but if librarians started to besiege publishers with requests for accessible formats, they would start to improve for the sake of their business. Currently there is vast under-requesting for accessible texts by HE and a large majority of us working in libraries do not know if the ebooks platforms we are purchasing our ebooks on are accessible or not. The process of requesting accessible texts direct from some publishers is improving but can be a time-consuming, laborious process containing many steps and barriers. A revelation to me was the existence of a Publisher Lookup UK database containing key contact details of publishers, this will certainly make my life easier.

There followed a series of presentation by librarians working to support disabled learners in active and innovative ways; Liz Wyman works in an FE College library and by involving the academic staff at the very start of the process to support the needs of disabled students, teaching staff were forced to consider choices of textbooks for courses. The fact that students are far more likely to succeed if they are provided with accessible learning materials strikes a chord with teaching staff and promotes liaison between them and the library staff.

Aly Peacock runs a very proactive service mostly for visually impaired students or for those with mobility problems, with a team of 3 people within the library at Leeds Metropolitan University. Aly told us how the service had grown dramatically over 9 years and highlighted some of the difficulties they faced working with publishers. library shotHer team was concentrating on putting the responsibility for support back on the academics, through pushing for standardised reading lists, and she was passionate about librarians needing to complain more vocally about bad inaccessible products.

Andy McMahon from Dundee University has costed the process of supporting disabled learners by obtaining accessible ebooks and in 2012 the service had costed the university @ £50,000. Andy’s conclusion was that it was imperative that ebook providers invest in accessible technology, he mentioned that Dundee was going to be switching ebook providers via the SHEDL consortium.

Paresh Raval is the Alternative Format Suite Manager at St Andrew’s University and with a team of volunteers he obtains and creates accessible books which are provided for free to those who need them for study. He stressed the need for building relationships and trust with publishers to try and ease the barriers to obtaining accessible texts.

The afternoon was for the publishers to tell us about what they were doing to make their ebooks accessible; Dr Alicia Wise spoke about Elsevier’s impressive formal accessibility framework and policy which went live in 2013; Chris Rogers of Penguin talked about the slow process of trying to address accessibility from the trade publisher’s perspective; Jenni Evans of VitalSource told us how publishers’ are using this technology to make their content very accessible and mobile friendly by loading ebooks on to the VitalSource platform, so entrusting the accessibility features to an expert provider without having to invest in-house; Veruschka Selbach of e-books.com talked of Ebook Services, aimed at publishers aiming to resolve the tensions between the use of DRM and accessibility tools; and Lynda Cooper of the Palgrave textbooks division in Palgrave Macmillan talked about how her team was working to initiate new accessibility workflows from the bottom up.

I learnt such a lot from this event, which explained in simple terms why EPUB3 was a game changer for accessibility. complain

I learnt always to ask for EPUB files when requesting accessible texts from publishers, reflowable PDFs are usually ok, but if librarians are asking for EPUB, the more likely the publishers will invest in this new standard.

I need to develop new accessibility criteria in my supplier’s checklist when evaluating ebooks platforms, and to demand accessibilty, and ask publisher’s about any user testing they’ve done for people with a range of disabilities using a variety of assistive technologies.

If more ebook publishers and aggregators were actively developing accessible platforms there would not be the need for librarians to make so many requests for alternative versions of books. To help convince publishers to invest, librarians (including me) need to SHOUT more!

There should be a shared approach, when one text has been made accessible (maybe through scanning) why could it not be stored in an international depository where it could be retrieved easily by others needing the same text for their students.

Most of the presentation slides from the day can be accessed from the conference website.

If you have any questions or want to know more about anything touched on in this blogpost please contact the ebooks@cambridge team at ebooks@lib.cam.ac.uk.


With all these new ebooks we are spoiling you…

The ebooks@cambridge team, along with Faculty and Departmental librarians have been busy buying new reading-list titles as ebooks.

Networking Penguins

P P P Pick up a mouse and click on an ebook!

If you are feeling like a Billy-No-Mates you could peruse this lovely business and management book with penguins on the cover, called ‘Networking for people who hate networking’ by Devora Zack.

There are also new ebooks in Classics, Engineering, English, Social & Political Sciences, Linguistics, Zoology, South East Asian Studies and Education. You can see what’s new by clicking onto the ebooks@cambridge Pinterest new ebooks 2013 board, and then clicking on the book covers to access the full texts.

Maybe you fancy reading a little poetry but are not really sure how to get the best from the experience? Then we have just the book for you by Terry Eagleton!Poetry1

Or for the Educationalists amongst you, how about Rudd’s ‘The Routledge companion to children’s literature’? Children1

And finally, here’s a fluffy little fella! Zoology students may be interested to have a flick through ‘Sensory ecology, behaviour and evolution’ by Martin Stevens.Zoology1

All of these ebooks can be found in LibrarySearch and can be read off campus with a Raven login.

The ebooks@cambridge team wish you a great weekend!