Dawsonera (from Dawson Books) and their communcation problem

Dear swedish tax payer and worker or student at Umeå university!

I work with the digital library at Umeå University Library and especially with our Discovery Search Tool (the library search engine) and e-books. We pay a lot of money to different vendors or publishers to feed you with the content and services you need for your studies and your research. I try to get the things we buy to work otherwise I think we’re not using your tax money in a proper way. That’s why I have to communicate with a lot of vendors and publishers explaining for them that this and that doesn’t work. We have paid (too often a lot of ) money for things that should work appropriate. Much of the time is spent on contacting suppliers support or contact persons. It’s maybe not a daily but at least a weekly nagging to suppliers and I think that I often have a lot of patience.

When we had problems with Ebrary (at that time bought by Proquest) after my writings at last John Tsihlis called me and we had a telephone call with represents from Ebrary in U.S. Now when I met John, I think two times, and Swedish representative Martin Blomkvist several times and they are listening and answering to their customer.

This is just one of more positive examples I had through the years with suppliers. What I mean is that I fight for your right as a Swedish tax payer and student or researcher at Umeå university to get the things you use and we buy to work properly. To get what we actually paid for, not just letting things slip away.

We’ve had Dawsonera (from Dawson Books) as e-book supplier for quite a long time now. The last years their technical solution have not been a benefit for us. They changed their technical platform early this year and I hoped they would change to the better technical solution that Ebrary has who are using the Adobe DRM that make it possible to use Adobe Digital Edition instead of Adobe Reader.

Dawsonera has an Twitter Account. Having an Twitter account, which is social media, to me is two-way communication, not just sending information. It’s a tool to answer questions also. If you read the @Dawsonera Twitter account you can see all the technical issues they had since summer.

3 October I sent this Tweet (no, not a DM) to ask Dawsonera: Are the tech. issues you have connected to the new Adobe DRM or/and Adobe LiveCycle?

Dawsonera Tweet

8 October I sent a Tweet again: Why could you not answer my tweet? Are you just using Twitter for one-way communciation?

Dawsonera Tweet

No reactions. I mailed the Swedish Dawson Books representative Malin Asplund and Felicity Kilshaw in England. Mailn answered and said that Felicity Kilshaw will answer after she returned from the Frankfurt Book Fair. Two days after the fair I hadn’t received any message so I mailed again. But long time no hear! 20 October I mailed again to Malin and Felicity and no hear.

24 October I wrote again:


I’m really disappointed of how you treat your customers questions. I will write about your lack of communication at my blog: https://nowherenorth.wordpress.com/

Now I’m writing this blog post and maybe some one else at Dawson books (Dawsonera) could give me a proper answer about the technical issues of the Dawsonera platform. The commentary field is free for you if you like social media!!

And you Swedish tax payer and worker or student at Umeå university. I do this to fight for you to get value for your money with appropriate, both technical and practical, e-books solutions.

All what I express here is my own opinions and not Umeå University Library’s opinion, though I hope some of my colleagues agree with me.

Update: Just some information about the Dawsonera technical platform. Dawsonera uses Adobe Content Server(ACS) which means it uses Adobe Reader(AR) to read and authenticate the material. The problem is that Dawsonera says you can read their books offline but that’s humbug. Every time you open a downloaded Dawsonera book you need to authenticate it to the DRM server, which means you need an internet connection to begin reading.

AR in connection with ACS has not the features Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) has like making it possible to store covers of books in the main page and make them clickable to open a book. In AR you need to find the file for the book and it’s just the ISBN number, not title or author. Not so practical. The Adobe Live Cycle (ALC) solution, that Ebrary used since they began offering downloading, is connected to ADE and ADE is a nice program for reading e-books. The nice thing with this DRM is also that it works with apps supporting that DRM like Bluefire Reader. The ACS DRM does not work with apps like Bluefire reader. I think it’s quiet clear, and has been for a long time, that ACS is a more unpractical solution than ALC.

I can also say that in a few cases when buying from Dawsonera we received it as epub and happily it uses the ALC solution connected with ADE. In June I asked Felicity Kilshaw if it now was possible to choose between epub and PDF but she said: no. I asked:”…when we buy a new book, how do we know if it’s epub or PDF we will get?” She answered:”…there is currently no easy way to know before purchasing a title. Once purchased, you will be able to see when you download the title. The download pop-up window will either suggest you download Adobe Reader for PDFs or Digital Editions for ePubs.”


3 responses

  1. I received an answer from Dawsonera Tuesday 28 october 14:26 and I invited Helen to paste the answer in the commentary field of my blog, but no answer. So, I’ll paste it myself. The whole library world should be able to read it.

    First, I’m very glad to get an answer at last :) and I’m also glad to get more technical information. Though I have some follow-up questions. You Helen say the Dawsonera plan is to “provide a single delivery mechanism in the future”. That means you will not use Adobe DRM at all? Which DRM will you use then? Or is the plan to deliver content just by an app or perhaps DRM free but watermarked?

    And as you say:”..we will continue to operate both Adobe products as we currently have content available in both formats”. That means that for a long time to come Dawsonera will have e-books both from the Adobe Content Server solution and Adobe Live Cycle solution and the library will not be able to choose which format to buy?

    Readers, don’t forget to look at my update concerning the technical issues in the bottom of the blog post, if you’re not familiar with the technical issues.

    “Dear Lars,

    Firstly I would like to sincerely apologise for the poor communication and lack of a response to your original question on Twitter. We have taken all customer feedback on board and are working internally to ensure that we improve upon our customer service, particularly in the domain of social networking.

    I hope I can help provide an answer to your original question and respond to some of the statements contained in your blog.

    At the moment dawsonera utilises both Adobe LiveCycle and Adobe Content Server to DRM content. We are currently in development with our new online reader, which will be image based and will negate the need for Adobe plugins. This we hope to be available in Q1 of 2015, but I will be able to advise more specific timings in the forthcoming weeks. With regard to the downloading of content in dawsonera we will continue to operate both Adobe products as we currently have content available in both formats, whilst we continue to work to provide a single delivery mechanism in the future.

    One of the main contributing factors to current site performance issues, is the load on the system. The numbers we forecast for site traffic this year have been exceeded to the point where the user activity has grown by 200% year on year.

Over the last weeks we have carried out a significant number of adjustments to the infrastructure, website and databases to improve overall performance. These incremental changes have started to have the impact of the site being significantly more stable over the last two days than in the previous weeks, although we recognise there is more work required to deliver the necessary performance.

Our approach currently is to focus on the stability of the site and our teams are working 24/7 to ensure an incremental improvement over this week and next. Whilst we realise the progress appears slow to our customers and their patrons it is critical that we make these adjustments as a series of incremental changes in order to protect the service availability status as much as possible. We have tried to always schedule downtime around midnight and will continue to take this approach to minimise disruption to service as we make these important changes. Examples of some of the activities we have performed over the last two days are:
    • Last night we implemented multiple server configuration changes. We also upgraded the Load Balancer VMWare processor and these have rendered dawsonera much more stable over the last 48 hours. We will continue to monitor to ensure the site continues to respond well under high loads over the next days and into next week.
    • Furthermore we have called on all available resource and used development partners to establish timescales for a further plan of enhancements for next week. Our software development partners will be on site working at Dawson to identify performance bottlenecks using data we have collected over the last few weeks.
    We estimate that over the next two weeks we will make significant improvements to the site stability and also be able to enhance overall performance. As we roll out our plans we will continue to make every effort to prevent intermittent outages and we do expect the number of these to decrease over time.

    Once again, please accept my sincere apologies for the lack of timely and clear communications from us and I can assure you that internally we are striving to improve this.

    If you have any questions relating to any of the above information, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will do all I can to assist.

    Best regards,


    Helen Stratford
    Head of Digital
    Dawson Books”

    Lars Iselid
    Umeå University Library

  2. Okay, Helen Stratford answers me by email. Then I know the Dawson books social media strategy is to send information via Twitter, not answering on Tweets or in blog posts:

    “We are currently investigating numerous solutions and technologies,
    including the ones you have mentioned above. At the point we have decided
    upon a solution, we will share this with our customers.”

    “Unfortunately I can’t provide clear timescales on when this might
    change as we have already committed to a development roadmap for the
    forthcoming months. However whilst we work on our forthcoming
    developments, in the background we are scoping out requirements and
    working with our customer user groups to look and new developments and
    improvements to existing workflows like offering customers a choice of
    format to purchase”.

    Lars Iselid

  3. Yesterday I received an answer from Dawsonera at Twitter: https://twitter.com/dawsonera/status/530387981774123009 I don’t know who is behind the account. Couldn’t be Felicity Kilshaw or Helen Stratford at least because they know my technical case by the e-mail I already sent. The person behind at least hasn’t talked to Felicity or Helen. Well, I’m glad they’ve begin to answer. So, my conclusion is know: all you Dawsonera customer with technical problems, just Twitter to them and they will help you. Am I right?
    Lars Iselid

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