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eBooks in Academic Libraries: The Librarians’ Perspective

by | Sep 30, 2021 | 0 comments

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By David Gibbs  (Interim Associate Dean, University Library, California State University, Sacramento) 

Against the Grain v33#4

It has been just over 20 years since eBooks first made their entrée into academic library collections.  Since then, libraries have struggled to promote awareness of eBooks, understand and manage user expectations, navigate often frustrating and confusing digital rights management (DRM) software, and find the right balance between print and electronic collections on a limited budget.

This is the first in a two-part series on the state of eBooks in academic libraries 20 years in.  This first issue takes the perspective of academic librarians:  what is working and what isn’t on the academic eBook front?  The follow-up issue, in February 2022, will present the perspectives of publishers.  It is my hope that publishers will respond directly to the critiques and suggestions raised by the librarians in this issue. 

Most of the articles here address the eBook experience at a particular institution, and I have attempted to include a range of academic library perspectives.  Debbie Dinkins recounts the history of eBook acquisition at a small undergraduate-focused institution, where demand-driven acquisition (DDA) has allowed the library to provide instant access to a larger pool of monographs than ever before.  Keri Prelitz and Ann Roll take a deeper dive into DDA to assess the cost-effectiveness of short-term loans at their university.  Ramune Kubilius and Tim Butzen-Cahill provide a twenty-year longitudinal assessment of the availability of core eBooks in the health sciences.  The final two articles explicitly call for publishers to modify current practices:  Michael Rodriguez presents a case for allowing libraries to share whole eBooks via interlibrary loan, and I make an argument for bundling the sale of print and eBook titles.  

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