A world of information online

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Last week, Jay concluded the first post on this blog with the thought, "These are exciting and important times." I couldn't agree more, and am glad to have this venue as a place to share some thoughts behind our important announcement from earlier today about OCLC, EBSCO, NetLibrary, and FirstSearch. I won't repeat what's in the press release; you can read the details there. But as someone who's been involved with eContent for libraries for more than 15 years, I thought it was important to share with you some of what went into this decision.

OCLC members have been involved in eContent since 1991 with the original version of FirstSearch. The tag line we used for the service was, "A world of information online." In retrospect, that phrase was probably a bit premature, since in 1991 hardly anyone (outside of the library community) could have told you what "online" meant. Our goal was to make it easy for member libraries to both obtain quality content and then get it out there in front of users, and we pioneered a pricing strategy that supported this objective. That goal moved forward in 2002 when the Cooperative purchased NetLibrary. We did so to protect our member libraries' investments in NetLibrary eBook purchases and to innovate, together, in this new arena.

Since then, the "world of information online" has gone mainstream and eBooks are seeing a major surge in popularity and availability. With so much material available from so many sources, the next logical step for OCLC is to focus our efforts on making all kinds of eContent work more efficiently within our cataloging, resource sharing, discovery and delivery services.

Under our new strategy, we will discontinue our role as a reseller of vendor eContent. We will discontinue the sale of eBooks, eAudiobooks and vendor-created databases on FirstSearch. We will focus instead on relationships that increase access to library-owned content via WorldCat.org, such as our recent partnership with HathiTrust. We will also expand our partnerships with vendors and aggregators such as EBSCO, Gale, Wilson and Google to increase the accessibility of their content in WorldCat Local and WorldCat.org to enable better access to member libraries' full collections using WorldCat services.

EBSCO has the platform and reach to bring eBooks, databases and eJournals together in a mainstream discovery experience for users. And we will work with them to make sure that these eBooks continue to be discoverable on WorldCat.

We've worked closely with thousands of libraries and partners over the years to support the advancement of eContent. And we'll continue to do so. We want to continue to grow the rich WorldCat database so your users will have a simple, useful and compelling place to discover library resources. We're still very much in the eBook access business. Records for more than 2.2 million eBooks are (and will continue to be) available through WorldCat.org.

What's next? Well, in 1991 I wouldn't have predicted Google or Wikipedia or Amazon.com, so I should probably stay out of the prognostication business. I can promise, though, that OCLC will continue to help our members innovate in ways that will one day seem as mainstream as eBooks are poised to be.

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