Today: McKeldin Open 24 Hours
Campus ID Required 11pm-8am

Guidelines for Selection of Electronic Publications: Summary of Issues


Electronic publications demand the consideration of a number of unique issues in addition to the criteria traditionally applied to print publications. These issues include the consistency of the electronic publication with any print version, the number of issues covered by a subscription, updates and currency of the online content, time limits on access to back issues, and the availability of content published prior to the initial subscription date.


There is no standard pricing model for electronic publications. Therefore, it is especially important that a selector carefully review the pricing model of the publication under consideration. Pricing models may include separate content and access pricing, one-time payments, ongoing obligations, per-use pricing, introductory pricing, or pricing caps. Selectors may also find that some publishers require the purchase of both the electronic and print versions of a publication or of a bundle of titles. For every pricing model, selectors should also consider the duration of the agreement or subscription, institution type and size, the number of simultaneous users and authorized sites, and the handling of backfiles.

Use and Functionality

Electronic publications require the assessment of browsing and searching capabilities, options for printing and downloading and other additional features such as multimedia and hyperlinks.


Unlike print publications, electronic publications may not be maintained on a permanent basis. The issues here include the publisher's commitment to archiving, the contents and form of any archive, fees and restrictions, and the effect of cancellation or termination on the maintenance of the archive.


Electronic publications also present unique access issues. For any e-publication, a selector should evaluate the method of validation, number of simultaneous users, and the enforcement of limits on direct access.

Duplication and Substitution

A selector may need to decide whether to replace or duplicate a print publication with an electronic one. Different issues apply to each decision. For duplication, issues include whether the electronic publication is archived, whether there is a need for different formats, and whether there is a cost benefit to funding both formats. For substitution, issues include whether the publication is archived, the reliability of the electronic format, the cost of the respective versions, and the needs of different groups.

Licensing Terms and Conditions

Libraries usually license electronic publications (unlike print publications) rather than purchasing them outright. For each license, the selector should consider the allowed use, including the authorized users and sites; termination of the subscription and limitations on cancellation; any limitations on use, including interlibrary loan and course packs; and liability for unauthorized use. The license should reflect the selector's understanding of the purchase or subscription.


Evaluation Checklist

This section contains a checklist of issues to aid selectors in their assessment of electronic publications.

Special Considerations for E-Journals

This section for convenience gathers together those issues raised in other sections that apply specifically to electronic journals. Some of these issues include access and content, currency, back issues and backfiles, funding and pricing, non-cancellation clauses and the duration of the agreement, and bundling.

Special Considerations for E-books

For convenience, this section gathers together issues associated with the selection of electronic books. Issues include access, consistency with the print version, the number of users, downloading and printing, pricing and bundling.

Approaches to Financing E-publications

This section presents information on different approaches to funding electronic publications.

Contacts and FAQs

This section contains information on whom to contact with specific questions and some answers to frequently-asked questions. This section also offers tips to help selectors find electronic publications and links to additional online information on licensing and copyright issues.