Skip to main content

Activities and Initiatives


E-Books Collections Growing at Boston College

Academic e-books have been a heavily-used part of the Boston College Libraries collections for a number of years, in the form of such important e-book collections as EEBO (Early English Books Online), the ATLA Historical Monographs, Cambridge Histories Online, Cambridge Companions Complete, Wiley’s Chemistry of the Functional Groups, Early American Imprints, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Oxford Digital Reference Shelf, Past Masters Online, and Sage Reference Online, to name just a few.  You may also have encountered one of the various e-book product trials offered by the Libraries this past year as the library’s way of gauging user interest in the content and the functionality of various e-book platforms.  Recent trials have included the e-book collections of Springer, the American Psychological Association, and, currently, selected titles offered by Taylor & Francis.  As a result of the Springer trial, the Libraries have recently purchased the 2010 e-book collections for Behavioral Science, Biomedical & Life Science, Chemistry & Materials Science, and Humanities, Social Science & Law.

E-books are increasingly recognized as having certain important benefits over print books: for reference use (for encyclopedic information, data and other facts); for multi-authored books, where the individual chapter is the segment of interest, and where the user would be unlikely to read from cover-to-cover; and for monographs, where multimedia can greatly enhance the experience and the information conveyed (by inclusion of audio or video clips, etc.)  E-books also have the great advantage of offering remote access – at any time of day.

The Libraries are careful in their selection of e-book products, with relevant content being uppermost, and preference given to products offering the following licensing terms:  purchase (rather than subscription, with its attendant on-going costs);  favorable digital rights management (ensuring that the license provides users the ability to print/download meaningful segments of a work, i.e. not limited to page-by-page printing, according to Fair Use guidelines of U.S. Copyright Law; and provisions for perpetual access.  Third-party agents, such as Portico, are now working with many major publishers to preserve e-book content, an option previously limited to e-journal content.

In the past, purchasing options for libraries were largely limited to e-book collections where libraries had little or no choice but to purchase desired as well as less-desirable titles. In more recent years, however, publishers and vendors have responded to the need for individual selection, and options for granular title purchase selection have now appeared. The Boston College Libraries have contracted with Ebrary for this type of individual title selection, and are purchasing more titles in this way, while continuing to purchase important publisher collections, where appropriate. 

In the Sciences, the major Scientific, Technical, and Medical (STM) publishers have moved aggressively into e-books, introducing some innovative business models.  Elsevier Publishing, for example, now offers the product, “Evidence-Based Selection”, providing access to selected, full e-book collections for a 12-month period. At the end of that time, libraries can invest that cost in purchasing individual titles either from that collection or from others, but now with the benefit of knowledge of individual use history.  In response to growing interest in this subject from many sectors, the Boston College Libraries have purchased access to the Elsevier “EBS” collection for Environmental Studies books pre-2007 through 2009.