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Guidelines for Selection of Electronic Publications: Use and Functionality

A selector should consider the following criteria to determine the functionality and user-friendliness of an electronic publication:

General Navigability

Ease of use can significantly affect the value of an electronic publication. Selectors should examine prompts, menus, introductory screens, online tutorials and function-specific help.

Searching E-publications

The selector should evaluate the power and ease-of-use of any search engine. Some publications may include full-text searching, while others support only browsing or index searching.

Printing and Downloading

The selector should examine the options provided for printing and downloading an electronic publication. Some publishers may also restrict or impose additional fees for printing and downloading all or part of a publication.

Introductory Pricing

Introductory prices are rarely as attractive as they seem. Sometimes an introductory price is only a pro-rated price; the vendor charges the subscriber for the remaining portion of the standard price after the introductory period ends. Selectors should ascertain what the price of a subscription will be after a special or introductory offer ends and when the offer expires.

Additional Features

The selector should consider the value added by additional features such as multimedia and hyperlinks to and from other databases.


Publishers that offer a discrete URL for each title are preferred. A discrete URL allows the user to access the journal or other electronic publication at a title level instead of only at a collection level (as in Science Direct, for example). A title without a discrete URL cannot be accessed directly from the University of Maryland pages or OPAC.