Using eBooks in Your Teaching

In response to the DePaul faculty members and students who have expressed appreciation forPhoto by Tina Franklin the accessibility and functionality of e-books, the Library has been steadily building its collection of books available in this format.

While e-books are creating new opportunities for accessing and engaging with content, the lack of uniformity across vendors and platforms sometimes presents challenges for using this content in an academic environment. Since we wish to support faculty who wish to use e-books for their classes, we want to outline some considerations that may impact that decision:

Simultaneous users

While some e-books provide an unlimited user option, many permit only a limited number of simultaneous users. This is often the case for books sold as textbooks or that publishers have identified as being “course adopted” titles. In other cases, like the content offered through the Safari Books Online database, there are a limited number of seats available for the platform itself.

Stability of access

Some of our e-books are part of subscription packages, such as Books 24×7 or Safari Books Online, that include content from many different publishers. Individual publishers may choose to withdraw their content if they develop their own platforms or wish to have greater control over their content. This happened recently with McGraw Hill, which withdrew all of its titles from all other platforms, including Books 24×7 and Safari.

Content availability

Many books are still not available for institutional purchase in electronic format, even if they may be available for individual students to purchase or rent in this format. Other e-titles, such as ones published by Springer, can only be purchased as part of a much larger, and usually expensive, package.

Does this mean that you should not use e-books in your teaching? Certainly not! E-books can be a wonderful way of providing access, and there are a large number of titles in our collection that have no limit in terms of simultaneous users and have been purchased in perpetuity. In fact, the Library is strongly in favor of providing e-books when this format is available and appropriate for the needs of our users. Further, the Library’s new policy for reserves is to default to purchasing e-books over print if an unlimited user option is available, although faculty members can overrule this default by indicating that they would instead prefer to use print texts for their class.

If you would like to use content from an e-book as required reading in electronic reserves, please check with the course reserves contact for your department to determine if an unlimited-user license is available for that title.

If you are also interested in exploring books outside of our collection that are available to unlimited users, then you want to look at collections of open access titles. Some excellent collections are available, including:

Directory of Open Access Books

OER Commons

Internet Archive

Project Gutenberg

Hathi Trust Digital Library




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