What are We Thinking When We Buy E-Books?

Searching Holmes these days almost always turns up at least one e-book in the search results, regardless of the topic. Just like its peer institutions, the Boston College Libraries are adding new e-books to the collections all the time, while also continuing to add a multitude of new print books. Choosing an e-book over a print book is a surprisingly complex decision, reflecting the fact that e-books come in many "flavors". This diversity is related to the fact that each publisher and platform provider varies in how it delivers its content (platform design) and limits its usage (Digital Rights Management, or DRM). On top of that, the e-book landscape, still, remains constantly in flux as all players seek better ways to deliver/provide this digital content in a way that preserves author rights, but recognizes long-time library fair-use provisions. We know that the challenge is worthwhile, however, for the many benefits that e-books can bring to our users – these include 24/7 access, text searching, the ability to expand or contract text size as needed, and, often, the integration of other media.

We thought that you might be curious to know what criteria we are using when we consider buying a new e-book product; you can see these described in our Values Statement for E-Books at Boston College. As you may have noticed already in using the Boston College e-book collections, some of the features described in this statement are present in the e-books we now buy, but others are still on library wish lists (everywhere). By keeping these values front and center, we hope to help shape publisher views of what users and libraries need and want in the e-books that they sell.

We would appreciate and welcome your thoughts about this document; please contact your Subject Specialist or email any feedback you have to sally.wyman@bc.edu, Chair, Boston College Libraries E-Book Task Force. To learn more about the Boston College Libraries e-book collections, see E-Books at Boston College.

Sally Wyman
Collection Development Librarian,
O'Neill Library