The idea of open access monograph discovery and collection building in Latin American and Area Studies is hardly new. As digital library and cultural heritage institution repositories have grown in size and prominence, so too has the interest in pulling them together for ease of discovery alongside related collections. In Spain, the impressive Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes includes dozens of thematic collections of full-text scholarly Latin American and Iberian content including articles, books, and recordings. The CLACSO and FLACSO digital libraries pull together open access scholarly monographs produced by multiple regional affiliates under a single portal. Europe-wide efforts include Europeana, which includes digital collections from dozens of libraries, museums, and other national institutions. HathiTrust contains a sizable subset of Latin American and Iberian content. And of course, the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) and the OAPEN Library are important aggregators of scholarly open access eBooks, although they remain small in size. All of these projects include known OA titles currently available in existing collections, begging the question: what unaggregated content available in digital form might be missing from such compilations?
A growing trend has drawn attention to an additional source of digital scholarly monographs in need of discovery: publications made available for free reading, and often for free download, produced by Latin American independent and university publishers, cultural heritage institutions and government agencies and secretariats. Because the number of publishers participating in these activities is large when viewed across the region, web-based discovery would appear to be a likely solution for these monographs. However, search engines generally lack the user-controlled refinements necessary to restrict results to quality open scholarly monograph output, and searching without these refinements results in too many unrelated websites to be useful for eBook discovery.
This paper proposes options for Latin American OA and cost-free (1) scholarly monograph discovery utilizing a Google product known as Custom Search Engine (CSE) to create customized search portals. Unlike the digital collections mentioned above, which search across discrete existing known collections, search portals and techniques such as those proposed allow users to search across the entire web to uncover scholarly free eBook sources that were previously unknown to them alongside known content sources, a key advantage to this method of discovery.
Library Collections and the Latin American eBook Landscape
While the availability of scholarly eBooks published in Latin America has been expanding steadily, there remains substantial room for improvement in their availability for library collection development. As with titles published by larger global eBook providers, Latin American eBooks may be available as part of subscription or purchased packages from vendors, as well as on an individual title basis from a variety of providers large and small. (2) Individual publishers, organizations and retail bookstores offer eBooks for sale through their own websites and third-party platforms, with a variety of DRM and DRM-free options. However, these eBooks pose challenges for libraries due to their spread-out nature, incompatibility with library digital platforms, and publisher inflexibility around licensing for institutional access, among other issues. Working with the more established eBook vendors is also a challenge. As Dracine Hodges (2015) notes, the four largest global e-content vendors, Elsevier, Wiley, Springer and Taylor & Francis, provide substantially more material in journal format than eBook format. Further, they all publish content that skews heavily toward the sciences, leaving "the rich cultural scholarship of the social sciences and humanities in other world regions unaddressed" (p. 174). Lourdes Gutierrez-Palacios (2012) also observes the science-heavy focus of major commercial eBook vendors, adding that these aggregators provide access to primarily English-language content (p. 9). Suzanne M. Ward, Robert S. Freeman and Judith M. Nixon (2015) concur, noting that these issues together pose a barrier to building global academic eBook collections (p. 4). For the purpose of Latin American eBook collection development, then, one major challenge is the lack of available content for acquisition through standard library-vendor routes.
Given the challenges associated with insufficient representation of global publishers in current eBook aggregators, librarians must investigate alternate means to provide access to the growing scholarly eBook output outside the global north. This should include a coordinated effort urging vendors to be more inclusive in their content development (see Terence Huwe's 2017 article "The Long and Winding Road of Ebooks" for a good summary of library-vendor dialog around eBook access), but may simultaneously involve investigating all appropriate models of access over ownership.
Developing a Web Portal for Latin American OA and Cost-free eBooks
Given the limited distribution of Latin American printed editions in library holdings outside the region, and the previously mentioned variation in both OA and purchased eBook distribution models, the interest in developing a web portal to provide aggregated access to open eBook content from the region is clear. Print runs of quality scholarly monographs by Latin American university presses, government agencies, and institutes may be quite small, and distribution handled informally within the region at book fairs and events, especially in those countries with smaller publishing industries. The formal distribution of any OA surrogates that may exist is rarely attempted, although some efforts may be made via social media (Dominguez & Ovadia, 2011; Scott, 2016). These eBooks may often be found only on the website of the publisher, or hosted on free publishing platforms such as issuu.com by smaller publishers who lack the infrastructure to undertake digital distribution on their own. (3) Government-financed titles may be available for free on cultural ministry and non-profit organization websites, as well. For area studies collection development purposes, it can be challenging to identify a vendor who can secure the printed edition of small print run titles, making discovery of cost-free digital surrogates an enticing proposition. Additionally, some Latin American government-financed organizations and ministries are releasing books solely in a freely downloadable digital format. (4) These titles are distributed outside existing models that might ensure their inclusion in WorldCat. While Google Scholar indexes many institutional repositories and has begun indexing OA and cost-free eBook titles on a limited basis, the majority of such book-length works fall outside its inclusion. Further, Google Scholar cannot be customized to deliver only books instead of articles.
The convenience factor of eBook access is a further rationale for increasing discovery of open Latin American monograph content through a web portal, coupled with a high potential for use by academics. A study by David Nolen (2014) found that, in a single year, nearly 38 % of all references to scholarly monographs in three top Latin American Literary Studies journals were to foreign university, academic, and governmental publications. This suggests that there may be a motivation for research libraries to enhance discovery of and access to the OA book production from these types of publishers.
Cost to libraries is another factor. As an ever larger percentage of library budgets goes to serials, the attractiveness of high quality OA monographs is clear. Additionally, expanded discoverability for freely available digital scholarly monographs can help institutions with smaller budgets more adequately serve patron needs: even a small library can give access to targeted collections of digital titles to supplement its collection. This is not to say that a search portal for OA and cost-free academic books can ever replace substantive budgetary commitments to specialized collections, particularly for regions of the world that remain print-heavy due to lack of a strong market for eBooks. However, research libraries can complement print holdings by enhancing discoverability of those electronic materials available at no cost.
Finally, digital preservation is of growing concern to librarians, and the spread-out nature of OA and cost-free monographs hosted in disparate repositories and websites only adds to this problem (Crossick, 2016). How can preservation be assured when discovery is not even possible? How can one even determine the scope of eBook material that may be at risk? A single search point for these kinds of materials would greatly aid efforts to quantify the nature and extent of the OA scholarly monograph preservation puzzle.
These challenges emphasize the importance of efficient discovery strategies for Latin American OA scholarly monographs. However, there is still no easy way to simultaneously search across all possible sources without being overwhelmed by out of scope content.
Using Google's Custom Search Engine Product for OA and Cost-Free Scholarly Monograph Discovery
Google released its Custom Search Engine (CSE) product in late 2006 (Hagner, 2006). The product allows developers to specify with relative granularity several search parameters targeting as much or as little of the entire indexed web as they define, making for a unique and highly tailored thematic search portal.
The use of a private sector no-cost product as a platform for any library tool has risks. Google has regularly made changes to and discontinued features of the CSE product, and can choose to cease support at any time. Therefore, other models should simultaneously be a...
Using Google's Custom Search Engine Product to Discover Scholarly Open Access and Cost-Free eBooks from Latin America/ Uso de la plataforma Google's Custom Search Engine para descubrir fuentes academicas de acceso abierto y libros electronicos gratuitos de America Latina.
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