Using Web 2.0 and guided navigation technology, MetaPress created a more streamlined and efficient way for users to browse all of the content available on SpringerLink. “The bonus of SpringerLink and MetaPress technology is when you have a collection as large as what we have on SpringerLink now, it’s very difficult to sort through it, to search through it,” says Klusendorf. “A researcher may not even know what they’re looking for.”
Klusendorf explains that guided navigation is an enhanced way of browsing, which helps researchers stumble upon information they didn’t know they needed when they first began their search. When a researcher clicks on the SpringerLink home page, he is presented with a traditional search engine-style search box in which he can enter specific keywords. The next click takes him to the results page, where the guided navigation functionality is presented on the right-hand side of the page next to the listing of search results. This enables the researcher to immediately see what type of content related to his desired topic is available. The search can be refined accordingly. For instance, users can drill down the search by date (for articles published in the last year or last week), content type (such as book, book series, or journal article), subject, language, copyright date (perhaps a researcher is seeking an article published in 1990), publication name, or author.
One main objective of the initiative was to improve the user experience and make it easy for all users—those who are computer-savvy and those who are technologically challenged—to access the content in the database. “You want to be able to entice the users who might be afraid to go to the electronic environment,” says Klusendorf. “How do you make the electronic [product] comfortable for the 70-year-old user? They’re still doing research. You have to make it so that a user can stumble upon SpringerLink and understand it. It has to be intuitive.” SpringerLink has also made the experience more personal with a feature called My SpringerLink, which enables users to keep records of their searches.
Springer’s ebook titles are organized into 12 subject areas, including behavior science, computer science, and engineering. The ebook content is available in both PDF and HTML formats and is searchable by book chapter. Users can download and print the content as well. Ernst says that offering the PDF is vital because most researchers prefer to print out the content rather than read it on screen. Regardless of how they digest the information, researchers receive additional content from the online books not available with the print products. The electronic platform enables Springer to include value-added features to the ebooks, such as high-resolution photographs as well as other images and videos.
Researchers aren’t the only ones benefiting from increased functionality. To improve the usability for librarians who purchase the ebooks for their organizations, Springer also added library standards into the system, including MARC 21 records that enable libraries to import titles into their access catalogs and COUNTER Compliant statistics “so librarians can show the value of their ebook investment,” adds Ernst.
The collection of content that users can search covers a variety of subject areas and it continues to grow. Springer’s ebook program now contains 16,000 titles and the company expects to add 4,000 new titles each year.
Adding these ebooks to SpringerLink and making them easier to find has actually given Springer a powerful and global outlet in which to promote its titles and raise the profile of the company’s entire portfolio. “With 4,000 books a year, you cannot do marketing for every book,” says Ernst. “Now they’re out there and searchable in a database where people can find them. That’s why we believe it helps the overall business. I think publishers in the past were afraid of putting all of their books online. But if you put them online, more people can see them and read them. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Ernst declined to release specific figures, but noted that SpringerLink has yielded positive sales figures for the ebooks as well as acceptance from users worldwide. Print book sales have also increased as a result.
Authors of Springer’s publications are also positioned to benefit from this global exposure. “Springer’s goal is to help our authors disseminate research to the widest possible audience,” says Ernst. “We are now able to obtain global readership and broaden visibility for research works that will not become obsolete.”
Springer expects that its ebook program will help make ebooks a more prominent source of information for researchers going forward. “Though they’re gathering momentum, ebooks are still in their early phases,” says Ernst. “But you will see many more researchers and end users looking for books online, especially in the scientific and academic environments; and as their time becomes more precious, the market will demand that more publishers move online.”
As more researchers move toward online information and ebooks, the goal becomes engaging them even further through SpringerLink’s features. “The goal is to keep the user within the SpringerLink environment and how we can provide a more enhanced page,” says Klusendorf, noting that MetaPress is working on ways in which to accomplish this, but declining to reveal specifics.