rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 1: p. 87
Sources: No Shelf Required: E-books in Libraries
Ola Carter Riley

Ola Carter Riley, Biomedical Librarian, Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas

“The pomegranate is a complicated fruit. Because it is not as commonplace as an apple or an orange … . The e-book is complicated much like the pomegranate.” In this compact book, No Shelf Required, the authors address some of the complications with e-books ever so lightly, yet succinctly.

The first five chapters deal with the history of e-books, their users, and the three major kinds of libraries—school, public and academic. The authors provide a history of e-books’ from their early existence on the Internet with the Gutenberg Project to the present day situation, encompassing publishers such as Google Books, NetLibrary, and others. Case studies are given on two types of libraries and how they use e-books and related technology: the River Forest Public Library experience with the Kindle, and The Pennsylvania State University’s Sony E-book Reader project. Another chapter explores the University of Texas’s experience, from the institution’s initial contract with NetLibrary to its later Google Books project, which includes other libraries as well. From these case studies, several common challenges emerge, including statistics gathering problems, format concerns, and purchasing issues, as well as ubiquitous technology issues, such as operation and maintenance of hardware and software.

The last four chapters discuss the “pomegranate” characteristics of e-books with some comparing and contrasting of the e-book with the familiar print book. The chapters cover acquisition of e-books, use and preservation of e-books, standards, and e-books’ future in academic publishing. The reader is presented with the e-book’s possibilities, yet, as the authors of one chapter point out, “the lines between the types of e-books are more blurred than with print books, which can be either attractive or troublesome” (96). Some of the troublesome areas where lines are blurred are found in discussions on subscription, dealing with backlists, printing and downloading, and delays in accessing of an e-book. The authors make known to the reader that “e-books are an ever-increasing staple” (75) in libraries, but also that “e-book purchases would increase if titles were available at the same time as the print version” (147).

This is a great source for anyone who is getting started with e-books for their library, who needs information on e-book publishers, or who simply needs to know how other libraries have worked through the e-book maze with users, vendors, publishers, and consortiums. The index enables easy access to information, making the book a great reference tool.

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