An Interesting Case Study on Managing Kindle E-Books : BLOG

An Interesting Case Study on Managing Kindle E-Books

by LCS on 05/05/12

A fascinating study that I highly recommend to my fellow librarians is Richard E. Sapon-White’s article “Kindles and Kindle E-Books in an Academic Library,” published in the January 2012 (volume 56, number 1) issue of Library Resources & Technical Services. 


Everyone is aware of the surge in popularity of Kindles and Kindle e-books.  As they are becoming more ubiquitous, it is time that all libraries consider ways to incorporate them into their services and collections, and in turn, for catalogers to provide the most effective access to these emerging literary tools.


Sapon-White’s description of Oregon State University’s six-month pilot project with Kindles preloaded with e-books discusses the difficulties libraries face with proprietary devices such as Kindles and their effects on the practices of collection development, acquisitions, cataloging, and circulation.


OSU’s task force decided to apply full cataloging to each title, providing access through the local catalog and through WorldCat.  The titles were housed in the e-readers, which were kept at the circulation desk, so call numbers were unnecessary for physical location purposes.  Instead, staff assigned “Kindle eBook” in field 099.  This allowed staff and patrons to find all Kindle titles by doing a call number search for “Kindle eBook.”  With the records in the local catalog having a location display of “Valley Circulation,” patrons were directed to the circulation desk to obtain the e-readers and their titles. 


After discovering that PCC guidelines allowed it, staff also decided to apply provider-neutral e-monograph cataloging procedures to these titles.  For copy cataloging, they preferred provider-neutral records, but when none were found, they used records containing “Kindle ed.,” or, if none with that edition statement were found, they used the most complete record.  They edited all copy to contain provider-neutral guidelines.  The non provider-neutral records that were edited into guideline-compliant records for copy cataloging will likely be merged with provider-neutral records in WorldCat, at which point the local bibliographic records should be replaced.


One quarter of the titles required original cataloging.  Perhaps the biggest challenge was that many of the e-books lacked much of the bibliographic data present in print titles, such as edition, publisher data, publication date, or ISBN, among other information.  Therefore, the catalogers had to look elsewhere for that data, using AACR2 9.0B1 and RDA rule  Unfortunately, that information was not always available, even from Amazon.  This presents difficulties for catalogers and scholars who desire more detailed data. 


Several of the titles supplied no information on author, edition, or publisher, and no print equivalents could be found in WorldCat.  Short records had to be created consisting of title, at least one subject heading, and the generic call number in the 099 field.  Because they were of dubious bibliographic value, these short records were not added to WorldCat.


All records were given code “z” for specific material designation in field 007 subfield b, because Kindle e-books differ from conventional print resources as well as other electronic resources; the individual titles are not in a physical format, nor are they remotely accessible.  Additionally, all Kindle e-books lack traditional pagination, so all copy and original records were given “1 online resource” unqualified by pagination in the 300 field.      


In addition to the effects of Kindle e-books on OSU’s cataloging, the ramifications on collection development, acquisitions, and circulation policies and procedures were also substantial.  Oregon State University handled them admirably, devising what I think are excellent ways of managing this new type of resource.  In fact, OSU’s procedures resulted in a very wide use of their Kindles, with additional Kindles soon having to be purchased to handle the great interest by patrons.


I recommend this article to my colleagues.  If you have Kindle e-books in your library or are considering purchasing them, it is an invaluable case study that contains some excellent insights and ideas put to practical use.  More importantly, even if you do not have Kindles in your library, you will be inspired by the adaptability and creative problem solving of OSU’s library staff, traits that we librarians will have to possess if libraries are to remain relevant and valuable in the face of constantly emerging new technologies.


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