Distributing Self Service eBooks Via Box

I know, the Box posts keep coming, but there’s a good reason for that.

We recently performed a massive restructuring and reorganizing of our Box account, and since doing so we have been utilizing the service as we hadn’t been before. Hand-in-hand with this, I’ve found new uses for Box that are replacing some of my previous workflows.

The way I handled content distribution for my users’ Self Service eBook Catalog on their iPads in the past was kludgy at best. Since I allow other departments to post content to the eBook Catalog in our JSS (something you might consider), I created an AFP share on our local office file server for them to dump .ibooks format files which would sync out to an Amazon S3 bucket once every two hours.

It worked, but it wasn’t immediate, there was no direct access to the Amazon S3 bucket for anyone save myself, and it was dependent upon a local file share syncing out to the cloud. It could be much better.

Enter Box. Or rather, enter Box the way we have it now.

As a part of the restructure, there is an un-scoped area titled “Open Content” that I designated to have no restrictions on sharing and could be accessed without logins. Certain content lives here with limited rights granted (namely, only IT and select invited users actually see the folders and have GUI access). Inside there is a new folder: “eBook Catalog.” The people who need to be able to populate eBooks in the catalog now come here to drop their files. [1]

When a file is uploaded, the user creates a shared link, then grabs the “Direct link” for the download URL in the Self Service eBook Catalog, and sets the “Link Level” security to “Open.” It looks a lot like this:

Box Open Shared Link

The URLs generated contain no reference to the file’s actual location within the Box account so even without requiring logins there is some security through obscurity. [2]

Download speeds for our eBook Catalog seem to be faster now with Box serving up the files (Box Accelerator certainly helps with distribution to our international locations), and we have the extra bonus of having download stats to see which eBooks are actually getting the most attention:

Box File Statistics

[1] I have been considering taking this setup further by creating sub-folders for each department. There would be the benefits that I, the admin, would still have all the content in one place and have visibility into what was there, and then there would be the added benefit of those departments keeping out of each others files. The whole point of the “Open Access” area is that it is the one section of Box designed without restrictions to allow easy distribution of select content.

[2] Not requiring logins is entirely a cultural/user experience choice on our part. Any of these links can be set to “Your Company” so that users are prompted with a login screen before the download begins.

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