Bringing Ebooks and Print Closer Together on the Library Website

January 5, 2016 | Sandra

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Are you an ebook reader, a print book reader, or both? For those of us who borrow both physical books and ebooks from the library, going back and forth between the main library website and the OverDrive ebook service can be inconvenient.

Why do we have to borrow ebooks through a separate site?

Like other libraries, TPL provides access to digital content through third-party vendors. These vendors (OverDrive, Hoopla, and others) negotiate rights with publishers and apply technical restrictions based on the licence agreements. This model places some limits on what libraries are able to do with their digital content.

The good news is that options for website integration exist, and we have started working on ways to take advantage of them.

One-stop search for electronic and print

One of our goals is to make it easier to find both print and ebooks through our main website search. We've always had catalogue records for both types of books, and we've recently done some additional work to make the search more useful.

Ebook availability: holds and copies

The first issue we tackled (in April 2015) was adding a key piece of missing information to our ebook records: the number of copies and the length of the waiting list (number of holds) for each title.

Having the holds and copies information right there on the search results page comes in very handy - you can easily see whether you'll be able to get the ebook right away, and you can compare waiting lists between the print and ebook versions.

Search relevance: bringing ebooks closer to the top of the results list

Another improvement we made this year involved adding data about ebook copies to our search engine's index. The number of copies the library owns helps determine which records appear at the top of your search results. When the search engine didn't know how many ebook copies we had, it would place the ebook records much lower down in results - below specialized formats like large print and talking book, and sometimes not even on the first page of results.

Now that the search engine has access to the number of ebook copies, ebooks turn up much closer to the top of the results - often right after the regular print version.

Future possibilities

These improvements are only the beginning. Future projects may include:

  • A single sign-in, eliminating the extra step of signing in to OverDrive
  • An integrated account where you can see all your physical and ebook checkouts and holds in one place
  • An app that brings everything together - searching (print and electronic), managing your account (print and electronic), and downloading and reading ebooks all in one place

In the meantime, we appreciate hearing your feedback about using ebooks - it helps us set priorities for the future.