CASE STUDYProject Start: July 2013
In the developing world, many educational institutions do not have the comprehensive libraries that might be available elsewhere. The technology of eBooks offers a low-cost means for these organisations to make up-to-date titles available to users without huge investments in physical libraries or books.
Our brief was to provide a highly functional eBook lending system to these potential users without Baobab Ltd incurring a large development cost. Securing digital content was vital if books were to be made available from mainstream publishers. Books had to be available for reading on consumer devices such as eBook readers and tablets, as well as on conventional computers. Care had to be taken to provide this hosted solution to organisations with poor internet connectivity.
The solution we used is based around Koha and Adobe Content Server:
Koha is a fully functional integrated library system. As it’s open source, modifying it is easy and cost effective, especially when compared to reimplementing the same functionality from scratch. Being widely used around the world, help and support are readily available. It can work with bibliographic records obtained from various vendors, and integrates with search engines and sources of supporting book artwork.
Adobe Content Server allows digital content to be securely provided to on-line consumers on mainstream eBook readers and on the freely available Adobe Digital Editions desktop client. This provides comfort to publishers – who can be assured that their intellectual property will be safe – and to end consumers who will be familiar with the user experience, for example from other lending libraries or commercial sites providing content.
We made extensive changes to Koha to integrate it with Adobe Content Server, as well as to provide end users with an online book reader. These enhancements were done in such a way as to allow future upgrades to be made to the underlying Koha with the minimum of difficulty.
For more information about Koha, visit koha-community.org.
End users of this system are library patrons in the developing world, as well as administrative staff at Baobab who are managing the licensing of books to libraries.
Time and money saved by reusing and modifying an existing software package
By basing our solution on an existing, widely used product, we were able to avoid spending most of our time reinventing standard features and to focus instead on what made this different from the competition. Whenever the customer asked us if an eBook variation of a common feature could be implemented, we almost always had somewhere to start, rather than having to begin from nothing. Additional benefits were to be found in using a software suite which already had a well-defined database design, and excellent integration with bibliographic formats – both areas which would have taken many months of efforts to implement ourselves.
Alan Lorimer, Technical Director"At the start of the project, we decided what products we would base it on. But this was something that had never been done this way before. Other teams who offered to help wanted a plan covering months of work with great precision: I wanted to be able to change my mind as I saw the project evolve. I needed someone who could listen to my feedback and ideas.
From knowing relatively little about eBooks at the outset, Ewan has taken Koha [an open-source, free Integrated library system] and learned all the features that would be useful to us. He's done a tremendous amount with a meagre budget, building upon existing components to add whatever we needed."