SPEC Kit 313: E-book Collections  ·  29
We will soon begin adding individual titles, but are not doing so at this time.
8. Under what circumstances is an electronic format preferred over a print format? N=53
1) Handbooks and other reference works in general where patrons would not read the entire text in a linear fashion.
2) Call number ranges and physical locations where there is an especially severe shortage of space. 3) Certain
subject disciplines: IT and Engineering for current titles. 4) Digitized copies of early or historic works physically held
Among others, when the title is a reference work, when users are more likely to read individual chapters than an
entire book, when searchable text is desirable, when the title is in a field whose users generally prefer electronic
access to printed books, or when a title is likely to be frequently used (assuming multiple simultaneous users are
As best we can, we try to tailor our selections (including selection of formats) to fit the needs of our users. Some
examples: distance education and other programs that enroll a higher proportion of non-traditional students can
often be better served with e-books; students and faculty in some disciplines (e.g., engineering) like the convenience
of e-books; humanities scholars often love e-books if they provide enhanced searching capabilities (especially if the
alternative is microfilm or traveling to use special collections). E-books are often preferred for high-use items that are
quickly outdated (e.g., reference books, and particularly IT handbooks). In all cases, of course, price and licensing
terms need to be reasonable as well.
As long as the price of the e-version is not more than 50-60% print retail the e-version is preferred.
Assumed demand for the title by multiple and remote users.
At present, mostly for reference books, encyclopedias, and technical books.
At the request of a faculty member or if the selector believes that the e-format will be more appropriate.
Currently LC’s Copyright Office’s policy is that “best edition format” is print. However, this is being revisited.
Disciplines that put a premium on current content and quickly become outdated(many sciences), disciplines where
researchers prefer electronic format (e.g., computer science), books that might be needed by many patrons at once,
books that are needed by multiple campus locations (saving us from duplicating copies across campuses.)
Electronic is preferred for reference books and instances where multiple users want/need access to the text.
Electronic is preferred when model and pricing meet our requirements.
For reference materials.
For reference materials and others that are frequently updated particularly in health, life sciences, IT, multi-subject
books, in support of course reserves.
Frequently updated books.
Heavily used reference titles are selected in electronic format when funds are available. When we learned that the
amount to buy a certain publisher’s collection of e-books for a single year was approximately what we paid for a
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