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Innovation: Comparing Print & eBooks

This guide helps VDOT employees explore books (both "printed books and eBooks) related to innovation.

Print and eBook Availability

VDOT employees can borrow from 60,000+ print books at the VDOT Library. The Library also provides access to: reports, standards, articles and many other information "formats," which are increasingly available as electronic documents. eBooks are a great example of a new way for libraries to help authorized patrons gain instant access to high-quality publications with a click or two. VDOT employees can search a collection of 100,000 eBooks, and typically start using those books immediately onscreen. Both print and eBooks can be discovered through the Library's Online Catalog, however, it may take users some practice to distinguish a catalog record for a print book from an eBook (some catalog records connect the user to a print OR an eBook copy). Finally, library eBook subscriptions are accessed from several different lending platforms, each of which has a unique "look and feel" in addition to offering multiple eBook "formats" (HTML, PDF, EPUB) which can be confusing.

Definition: For purposes of this discussion, an eBook is defined as an electronic version of a published print book, which typically contains Digital Rights Management (DRM) controls, and which is made accessible to authorized VDOT users through licensing between VDOT and the vendor or publisher. It is read on a computer or handheld device (rather than a physical format) and is accessed, checked out or downloaded via eBook special Web site or lending "platform" controlled by the publisher or 3rd party vendor.

Lending Print Books: The Basics

Sometimes the clear preference is for a book in its printed format. Borrowing printed books from a library may not be glamorous, but most VDOT employees understand the basics of: Checkout, Renewals and Holds. Due to recent staff scheduling constraints, the library has either been closed to in-person visitors or "in-person access" has been limited. We now staff the library 3-5 days a week and we will gladly locate, check out and ship printed books (and other "hard copy" materials) upon request to VDOT employees anywhere in the United States. For details about lending periods see our page on Borrowing and for instructions on how to find and check out a book remotely, visit the Library Catalog Quick Start Guide.

Pros of Print Books: Cons of Print Books: Considerations for Print Books:

• Easy to use (explanation is usually not necessary)

• Easy for libraries to purchase and lend

• Requires no hardware, software or electricity

• Books are portable, affordable & "owned" by VDOT

• Can be "checked out" remotely by employees

• Library ships free of charge

• No overdue fines, unlimited renewals

• One user at a time, per copy

• Requires in-person visit or library shipping (time factor)

• Books can be damaged or lost in transit

• User must "return" (ship back) items when done

• Gratification is less "instant" due to factors above

• May have to "wait" in order to borrow popular titles, unless the library has multiple copies

• InterLibrary Loans can be helpful for accessing extra copies

• Content is not "linked" to other resources, other parts of the book

Lending eBooks: Not the Same as Print Books!

Sometimes an eBook is preferred. If you imagine a printed book as a "container" when you borrow the book, the "content" (information on the pages of the book) goes everywhere the "container" goes. That is less true with eBooks that VDOT licenses. Those documents are "controlled" by the publisher through an eBook viewing/lending platform and Digital Rights Management (DRM). VDOT's current licenses allow for an unlimited number of employees to access the same book at the same time (good), but some publishers still put constraints on downloading/printing of eBook pages.

Pros of eBooks: Cons of eBooks: Considerations for eBooks:

• Convenience, particularly remote access

Easy to search, read, save and print "portions" 

Unlimited simultaneous users across all of VDOT

• Features like: online notes, bookmarks, "last used" or "recommended" and share a link

• Work from VDOT or personal PC/laptop, tablet or smartphone

• No need to "check out" or "ship back" books—just "access" an eBook as needed, when needed

• Eye strain or other physical considerations, depending on the device, user and setting

• Features, functionality and formats vary by vendor platform, which can confuse some users who want to focus on book content, not become an expert in book lending platforms

• Publisher pricing and availability for libraries varies (eBooks can more expensive, less flexible to lend, or simply unavailable to libraries at any price)

• Formats (HTML, PDF, EPUB) can be confusing to the patron

• Best for "quick reference" reading

• VDOT "licenses" but does not own eBooks

• It can be hard to "move" an eBook or view on a dedicated reader

• Publisher restrictions often limit downloading, copying or printing

• User experience "borrowing" from a library is not as seamless as user expereince "buying" 

• Most libraries cannot borrow/lend eBooks via ILL

• Transportation publishers have been slow to embrace eBooks

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