Posted by: Steven Harris | August 31, 2009

E-book Talking Points

We had some faculty at my university express some concern about e-books in our collection. Why do we have them? Are they taking the place of print books? I wrote up these talking points to be used by library staff as they interact with customers. This is not to say that I don’t see certain drawbacks to e-books, but this is where we are philosophically. I didn’t plan that they be distributed publicly, but what the heck! In case you might find them useful.

E-Books: Issues & Philosophy

Since the Zimmerman fire in 2006, the University Libraries at UNM have had a goal of converting as much content as possible to electronic format. Up to now, that conversion has primarily involved journals, indexes & abstracts, and reference resources. A few e-book collections have been acquired in specific subject areas. We are now moving forward with adding more e-book collections for all subjects. Students, faculty, and staff on campus may have questions and concerns about e-books in general and about UL plans to add more e-books. These points may help address those questions.


  • Electronic resources are in high demand. Use of e-resources is, almost without exception, greater than for equivalent print material.
  • E-books transcend limitations of space and time:
    • Can be accessed day or night, even when the libraries are closed.
    • Can be accessed by users who are distant and cannot readily get to campus, including branch campus and Extended University students and faculty.
    • Do not require storage space in the library, which is at a premium right now.
  • For many e-book collections more than one user can read it at the same time, which can be valuable for reserve and other high-use material.
  • Enhanced functionality: E-books enable users to search for specific words or phrases, make and save annotations online, export citations, and perform other tasks.
  • Some of our e-book packages provide lower cost per volume than buying the same print books.

Publishing output and UL collections:

  • The University Libraries (UL) is not giving up on print books. We anticipate that print books will continue to be important information sources for years to come.
  • In the past fiscal year, e-book purchases only made up 2.5% of our total materials expenditures. Even for books alone, e-books were only 10% of our expenditures.
  • E-books will become a larger and larger part of publishing output, especially for scholarly and university presses. The UL will need to keep up with that conversion to provide up-to-date and useful information to UNM.
  • We will analyze use and usability with the idea of selecting e-book collections that are most valuable to UNM. This may mean that we change collections or vendors over time.
  • Some of our e-book collections have records for individual titles listed in Libros. Others are only accessible by browsing the collection website.
  • Our collections require users who are off campus to log in with their NetID and password.
  • Many factors can affect accessibility: internet service provider, campus IT, NetID, publisher.
  • In some cases, it may be appropriate to have a print and an electronic copy of a book.

E-Books: Issues & Philosophy

Current UNM E-Book Collections:

  • ACLS Humanities Collection – humanities and history from scholarly publishers.
  • Books 24×7 ITPro Collection – technology, computer science, and programming.
  • Credo Reference – dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference works from many publishers.
  • Early American Imprints – based on the Charles Evans American Bibliography and the Shaw-Shoemaker supplement: works printed in North America, 1639-1819.
  • Ebrary Academic Complete Collection – over 42,000 titles from scholarly and trade publishers in many subject areas.
  • EEBO Early English Books Online – based on the Short-Title Catalogues of Pollard-Redgrave and Wing: works printed in Britain or works in English published 1475-1700.
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library – directories, encyclopedias, and handbooks on a variety of topics published by Gale.
  • Knovel K-Essentials – selected handbooks in science and engineering.
  • MIT Cognet – books from MIT Press primarily in psychology and brain science.
  • NetLibrary – books on a variety of topics from many publishers. Not as current as ebrary.
  • Patrologia Latina – comprises the works of the Church Fathers from Tertullian in 200 AD to the death of Pope Innocent III in 1216, compiled by Jacques-Paul Migne, 1844-1855.
  • Springer Mathematics – includes Lecture Notes in Mathematics and other books.
  • Springer Computer Science – includes Lecture Notes in Computer Science and other books.


  • Marilyn Christianson and Marsha Aucoin, “Electronic or print books: Which are used?” Library Collections, Acquisitions, & Technical Services. 29, no. 1 (2005): 71.
  • Dennis Dillon, “E-books: the University of Texas experience, part 1,” Library Hi Tech 19, no. 2 (2001): 113-125.
  • Dennis Dillon, “E-books: the University of Texas experience, part 2,” Library Hi Tech 19, no. 4 (2001): 350-362.
  • Jonathan Bunkell and Sharon Dyas-Correia, “E-Books vs. Print: Which is the Better Value?” The Serials Librarian 56, no. 1-4 (2009): 1-4.
  • Ellen Safley, “Demand for E-books in an Academic Library,” Journal of Library Administration 45, no. 3/4 (2006): 445-457.


  1. I was floored to see you had faculty concerned that you’d acquired eBooks. Our experience is doctors/researchers upset that we don’t have *more* eBooks.

  2. Wolf…

    There is definitely a tension between wanting the access and functionality of ebooks versus wanting the ease of use and comfort of print books. Two main concerns come up: 1. the ebook doesn’t function because of some connectivity issue. 2. Are we taking away money from print books to buy ebooks?

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