This article has been updated to include comment from Marshall Breeding.
Library technology company Bibliotheca, heretofore mostly focused on helping libraries manage their print collections through tools like RFID, is entering the ebook market in a decidedly different way: by offering a solution for libraries who want to follow the Douglas County Libraries, CO, model of direct ebook ownership rather than licensing content from intermediaries. Monique Sendze, associate director of information technology at DCL, will join Bibliotheca to lead a new ebook division.
The Bibliotheca eBook solution will debut in early 2013 in North America, though some elements, those built on the DCL-developed platform, may be available earlier. Once several North American sites are up and running, it will be introduced worldwide. Bibliotecha hasn’t named its ebook solution yet. “In keeping with our mission to make this a solution developed by libraries for libraries, we welcome your suggestions,” the company says on its website.
DCL Director Jamie LaRue said in a statement, “Bibliotheca’s eagerness to test and take our model to the global market is significant–a game-changer.”
Though DCL is the inspiration and basis for the project, the program won’t necessarily end up identical to what Douglas County uses. “Bibliotheca is also exploring a number of other options, some of which may differ somewhat from DCL’s model but all of which follow the fundamentals of the DCL concept,” the company states.
Those fundamentals include the objectives of lower acquisition costs, seamless integration with all major ILS, and expansion of digital content made available by publishers to libraries. Bibliotheca plans to lower acquisition costs by supporting a cooperative purchasing platform that will aggregate eBook purchases, pass along the discounts publishers give to eBook resellers, and provide secure DRM for publishers to deliver content. Many of the tools will be open-source; Bibliotheca will provide hosting services and help for those that need it, including installation and customization as well as tech support. The company also plans to integrate ebook delivery into its existing self-serve kiosks. Shai Robkin, president of Bibliotheca in the Americas, did not immediately respond to LJ’s request for further comment.
Though DCL is very supportive of Bibliotecha, it isn’t planning to replace its homegrown system with the new offering. “At this point, with our investment in the platform and the acquisition of so much content, we’ll continue with our platform. We will definitely be looking to replace Monique,” LaRue told LJ. However that’s not to say DCL won’t consider an addition rather than a substitution. “We’ll certainly keep an eye on it,” LaRue added. The reality for most libraries is that we’re running a mixed environment. Bibliotecha will get added to our stew of platforms.”
Marshall Breeding, editor of LJ’s Automation Marketplace, told LJ Bibliotecha’s move into ebooks makes sense, given that its previous RFID-based business model, like 3M’s, is dependent on physical books and gives it pre-existing library customers and in-library devices to build on.
He said, however, that he can’t see that either Bibliotecha or 3M has any advantage with publishers. “That’s a key question: what do they have going for them that the others don’t that will get publishers to work with them in this way?” Breeding asked. And while choosing the Douglas County model guarantees Bibliotecha a lot of positive buzz with librarians, “this model is harder for the publishers,” Breeding says, making it more doubtful they will get on board.