EBSCO Takes NetLibrary

From OCLC:

DUBLIN, Ohio, USA, 17 March 2010—OCLC and EBSCO Publishing (EBSCO) have signed an agreement whereby EBSCO will purchase the assets of the OCLC NetLibrary Division and the rights to license a select number of vendor-owned databases currently available through the OCLC FirstSearch service. The purchase includes the NetLibrary eBook and eAudiobook platform as well as operations and infrastructure in Boulder, Colorado.

NetLibrary eBook content and eAudiobook subscriptions will continue to be available on the NetLibrary platform. EBSCO plans to provide access to the NetLibrary eBook content on the EBSCOhost® platform, one of the most used eContent platforms, creating a comprehensive integrated eBook and database service. NetLibrary eBooks will also continue to be discoverable through WorldCat.org.

“As eBooks become a mainstream part of libraries’ electronic collections, the time is right to provide new opportunities for libraries to integrate the acquisition and delivery of their eBooks, databases and eJournals,” said Jay Jordan, OCLC President and CEO. “This agreement with EBSCO will provide eBook users worldwide with increased avenues to discover their library’s growing eBook collection.”

“Our customers have been encouraging us to enter the eBook business as their users want to search eBooks on the same platform they are using to search leading full-text databases such as Academic Search™ and Business Source®,” said Tim Collins, president of EBSCO Publishing, the producers of EBSCOhost. “While we will begin work immediately to integrate NetLibrary eBooks into the EBSCOhost platform, we will also continue to maintain and enhance the NetLibrary platform to ensure a quality user experience while EBSCOhost functionality is being expanded.”

Mr. Collins continued, “We are also pleased to work with OCLC to transition a portion of their FirstSearch business to EBSCOhost. Given our history and experience providing access to leading secondary databases on EBSCOhost, we are well-positioned to provide FirstSearch subscribers a smooth transition to EBSCOhost.”

OCLC purchased the assets of NetLibrary in 2002 from bankruptcy in order to protect libraries’ investments in eBook content purchases, and to explore the potential of eBooks for libraries during the early days of eContent and the Web. OCLC members and publisher partners pioneered new eBook platforms, new purchase and licensing models and built a global shared eBook service for tens of thousands of libraries worldwide. OCLC has partnered with EBSCO to ensure even greater access to the important eBook resources of libraries.

OCLC’s commitment to protecting libraries’ investment in NetLibrary eBooks continues. All NetLibrary eBooks purchased by libraries will be placed in a dark archive—the OCLC eBook Archive—at least through March 2013. Just as OCLC protected member libraries’ investments with the acquisition of NetLibrary in 2002, the agreement with EBSCO ensures that all NetLibrary eBooks purchased by libraries continue to be secure.

EBSCO will provide OCLC MARC records for applicable eBooks to libraries free of charge and will ensure continued visibility of these important collections in WorldCat.org. EBSCO plans to maintain the popular eBook content purchase model and will explore eBook subscription options.  Thousands of libraries also subscribe to Recorded Books eAudiobooks on the NetLibrary platform. This service will continue as EBSCO and Recorded Books will partner to provide access and new eAudiobook content on the NetLibrary platform.

EBSCO has also purchased the rights to license certain vendor-owned databases that are currently available via FirstSearch. Existing FirstSearch subscribers will continue to receive access to these databases on the FirstSearch service through the end of their current subscriptions. In order that customers experience an ideal transition to EBSCOhost following the current subscription period, pending approval of database owners, EBSCOhost access to these databases will be activated to run in parallel with FirstSearch access for the remainder of the current subscription.

OCLC will continue to deliver important library content via the FirstSearch platform. The WorldCat database, the WorldCat base package of databases and databases of primarily library owned content will continue to be offered through both FirstSearch and WorldCat.org. In 2008, OCLC expanded the visibility of FirstSearch databases by providing coverage of all FirstSearch content on both the FirstSearch platform and WorldCat.org.

OCLC and EBSCO have put in place processes to ensure continuity of service and support.  FAQs for customer and member support, ordering, billing and service transition is available at http://www.oclc.org/firstsearch/content/questions/ and http://support.epnet.com/knowledge_base/detail.php?id=4789.

“Proceeds from the sale of the NetLibrary Division will be re-invested in the cooperative, both in financing current operations to keep our shared costs down for members and in resourcing important new product development,” said Mr. Jordan. “I am pleased to say that OCLC will therefore be able to hold service prices flat on all OCLC services in the United States for a second consecutive year, through June 30, 2011.”

Moving forward, OCLC will concentrate new development resources on enhancing and expanding WorldCat services and developing new services to streamline and lower costs of library management workflows. OCLC will continue to increase investment levels in support of valued library cataloging and resource sharing services. OCLC will also continue to build partnerships with publishers, library content developers and other content aggregators to provide maximum discoverability of a library’s complete collection through WorldCat.org and WorldCat Local.
“We are focusing our resources and investments on WorldCat services and on building a range of new Web-scale services for libraries,” said Mr. Jordan.  “We are transitioning out of the role as reseller of vendor content.  We will leverage cloud computing technologies to build cooperative services with our members and partners.”

“OCLC members have a strong track record of investing in research and development which yields new methods and new technologies for the broad library community,” Mr. Jordan said. “This began with the creation of WorldCat nearly 40 years ago and continued with pioneering work on eBooks in this past decade. There are many exciting new opportunities ahead. We see significant value in the new capabilities made possible by the combination of the shared resource that is WorldCat, cloud computing and cooperation.  We will focus the cooperative’s energy and strategies on continuing our mission to increase access to the world’s information through cooperation and innovation.”

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