Why can’t the library provide everything electronically?

You can access over 1.4 million ebooks via SOLO. The Bodleian Libraries are working with publishers to provide lots of extra access to online resources during COVID-19. Over 5,000 new ebooks have been purchased and added to SOLO and a further 60,000 temporary e-books have been made freely available by publishers during this period.

If you can’t find an ebook and you need it for your research or teaching, we may be able to purchase it if it is available. However, not all books are available for libraries to buy as ebooks. Here’s a list of the reasons why:

In general, ebook versions are most commonly available for titles printed within the last decade or so. Digitised books scanned by institutions are usually much older to be safely out of copyright. This means that many 20th Century titles are not available as ebooks.

Sometimes publishers provide ebooks for individual private purchase only, because that is an effective pricing model. Amazon ebooks and many textbooks fall into this category. Libraries are unable to buy e-books that are supplied for individual private purchase only.

Sometimes ebooks are available for institutional purchase but have a single user access model, i.e. they can only be read by one person at a time. This would be unacceptably restrictive for titles on some student reading lists, for example, and may mean the library chooses not to purchase the ebook and instead scales up print provision.

Sometimes ebooks are available for purchase, but with additional restrictions to named users or cohorts. The University’s policy is that, wherever possible, access to e-resources should be available to all current University members

Sometimes ebooks are available for institutional purchase, but not licensed for sale in the UK.

Sometimes ebooks are available for institutional purchase but are too expensive. We will always try to find a solution, negotiating with publishers and suppliers and sharing the cost across multiple budgets. It may still be too expensive to buy. Note that the costs quoted for ebooks on publisher websites are usually for individual private purchase models. Institutional purchase models, when available, are usually much more expensive. For example a Kindle book that costs you £26 could cost us 7 times as much or one ebook that only 3 people can access would cost us over £650.

Sometimes ebooks are available for institutional access via a subscription to a package deal or database only. Due to the size and cost of these packages, it is not always cost-effective to purchase a whole package if very few titles within it are required.

To find out more about ebooks, consult the Bodleian Libraries ebook LibGuide.


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