In Record Year of Production, EBSCO eBooks Remain Industry-Best for Quality

Library Resources | May 04, 2015

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Why some e-books fail to provide a quality reading experience, and what EBSCO is doing to change that.

EBSCO’s eBook production team ingested over 190,000 books last year to make it the most productive year in its history. But there is more to this story than just these numbers. EBSCO is also leading the way for accessibility and quality standards. 

Both customers and users notice that the quality of e-books can be inconsistent across providers, and publishers are also concerned: in a study released last fall by Bowker and the Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL), more than half of publishers polled said that “retaining formatting” and “quality” were their biggest concerns related to selling e-books, followed by other problems related to quality, such as converting from print to electronic version or into the delivery format. Poor quality not only affects sales to publishers, but it affects the reading experience for end users, especially vision-impaired users.

Why are some e -books blurry and hard to read? Upon investigation, we discovered that some of this inconsistency in file delivery is because vendors are taking PDF files from publishers and delivering image files to the end user, most notably when users save a portion or a chapter for later use. These images are basically scans of the content instead of the content itself; and, as such, they’re often blurry and appear smudged. And they also aren’t searchable – so when a user saves a chapter and goes back to it later, s/he can’t do a search within that PDF file for a word or phrase. And they aren’t readable by screen readers, so they aren’t usable at all for vision-impaired users.

Accessibility and usability are key priorities for EBSCO. EBSCO has almost 2,000 e-book publisher partners, so it’s important that we protect, enhance where possible, and deliver the highest quality PDF files to users. There are two ways that we preempt quality and usability concerns. First, we employ a robust content-review process to ensure that the publisher’s intended formatting, quality and aesthetics make it all the way from the publisher to the end user. Supervisor Jeanne Sanviti-Masher explains that “the quality process begins with a proprietary validation tool that interrogates the files for a variety of warnings and errors. The automated validation is supplemented by a visual assessment, where members of our production team inspect the content, layout and navigation of the book files alongside the validation tool data. We check title level metadata, pagination, table of contents, bookmarks and ISBNs, and ensure that PDF files are clearly legible and searchable and EPUB files are properly formatted. After the visual assessment, there’s another level of system validation that titles must pass before being approved for posting on EBSCOhost® . “ 

Second, the EBSCOhost platform delivers the originally formatted publisher files, both online AND in the saved chapter or excerpt. There is no conversion to a scanned image, so there is no quality lost. This means that our eBooks are crisp and clearly legible, and remain fully searchable and accessible wherever the user wants to access them. The end result is an industry-leading quality control process that ensures crisp, clear PDF pages, usable saved excerpts, and the highest quality PDF and EPUB files.

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