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Appendix: Special Considerations for Electronic Books

The selection of electronic books raises special issues not found in the selection of print books or in the selection of other electronic publications. Although these concerns are addressed as part of the Collection Development Policy Statement: Electronic Resources, this Appendix for convenience gathers together e-book-specific issues. To ensure that an electronic book is suitable for selection, a selector should always investigate the following areas:


The same selection criteria apply to electronic books as to paper books. They must be appropriate to our collections, support the research and teaching activity of the University of Maryland, and be of a scholarly nature or likely to advance scholarly research or university education programs. Electronic versions of paper books in the Libraries' collection are obvious candidates.

Content Consistency with Print Version.

The electronic version of a book can differ substantially from its print counterpart; for example, an electronic book may omit illustrations, graphs, tables of contents, or indices found in print. A selector should always compare any print version with the electronic version to determine consistency. Online access should include the complete text with accompanying graphics, tables, and references, plus an official citation.


A selector evaluating an electronic book or collection of books should pay particular attention to how users will access the book electronically. Access models differ from vendor to vendor and change constantly. The central issues concern limits on the number of simultaneous users of a particular book and how the publisher enforces those limits. A selector should not assume full-text search capabilities.

Simultaneous Users

Vendors of electronic books almost always limit the number of users who can access a book simultaneously. A selector should clarify how many users can access a given book, whether the Libraries can increase that number and how much an increase in the number of users will cost.

Access Enforcement

By a variety of means, a vendor can limit the number of users who access a particular book. Some vendors simply send a message to the user's browser that a particular service or book is unavailable. Others have a more complicated method that allows a user to check-out books for limited amounts of time.

Downloading and Printing

Electronic books usually have restrictions on downloading and printing, often forbidding both. Selectors should understand what these limits are and whether the limits are appropriate for the book's intended use.

Access v. Permanent Rights

Not all vendors sell permanent rights to electronic books. A selector should determine whether the University of Maryland receives the right to permanent access to the book, even in the event of cancellation, or purchases only access rights for a defined period of time. If the vendor allows only a limited right to access the book, the selector should pinpoint the duration of that access and how Libraries can renew or cancel it.

IP Address Validation

Selectors should add only electronic books openly available to the campus community through IP address validation. Registration requirements, passwords or other methods of individual authentication or authorization should be avoided.


The pricing structures of electronic books vary significantly. Selectors should not only be alert to variations among pricing structures but should also be aware that these pricing structures change rapidly.

One-time Payments v. Ongoing Obligations

A pricing structure may include a one-time payment, an ongoing obligation (for example, a yearly subscription or access fee), or both. Pricing models with a one-time payment tend to require the payment of a substantial sum initially. Pricing models with ongoing payments tend to require periodic payments, but without the payment of a substantial sum initially. Some pricing models require both. The one-time payment usually covers the content while any ongoing payments cover access. Selectors should clarify which portion, if any, of a particular payment represents a one-time fee and the amount of any expected future payments.


Some license agreements have provisions that hold the library liable for unauthorized use of the resource by its users. Acquisitions will examine any such provision and renegotiate it, if appropriate.