This year's list of required medical school course books has now been distributed to students and posted in Blackboard. The Library is pleased to offer an e-book option for all of the course books that are sold to libraries as e-books. Out of the 41 books required or recommended for Years 1 and 2, the Library provides access to 22 of them online.
Yes, that's right, there are still some well-known books required for courses that are only available through the library as "paper" books! Some students and faculty may find this very surprising. After all, we are well into the digital age, and most people expect that the resources they need will be available online. Some of these texts might be available in Kindle edition on Amazon, so an ebook is available. Why wouldn't the library offer an ebook?
In order for the library to provide access to ebooks, the library has to sign a license agreement with the publisher, and pay a different price than individual users for access to the same ebooks. Unfortunately, we find that many publishers are reluctant to sell library access to many of their books, especially some of their widely adopted textbooks.
In fact, the library recently lost our license to several popular online USMLE review books including First Aid for the USMLE, solely because the publisher (McGraw Hill) decided to stop selling them online to libraries. Other important books that are not sold to libraries in online format (at the time this post was written) include: Grant's Dissector, Essential
Cell Biology, Molecular Biology of the Cell, Costanzo's Physiology, Goljan's Pathology, both of the books required for the Brain and Behavior course: Purves Neuroscience and Introductory Textbook of Psychiatry and more.
Some publishers will allow libraries to purchase or rent "single user" e-books that can be checked out digitally one at a time, much like a print book is checked out. At Mount Sinai we have always pursued licenses that allow us to provide access to multiple members of the Mount Sinai community simultaneously, both on and off-campus. Directing all our students to a "single user" ebook during a course or before an exam never seemed like a good idea!
Although libraries can't license them for multiple users, publishers will often sell these core
books online directly to individual students and faculty members, through such providers as VitalSource. While the ebook marketplace is still evolving, it does appear that many publishers think their bottom line will improve if they focus on selling to individuals, rather than to libraries!
Librarians (and hopefully our library users too) are concerned that the library's mission to provide resources to support academic programs is being partly undermined when publishers flat out refuse to sell their widely adopted texts as ebooks on the library market.
So, what can you do if you'd like to see your favorite text online through the library, available whenever you'd like to access it? Well, probably the best thing students and faculty can do is not purchase individual access to an ebook that is not sold to institutions… of course, this may not be practical if you'd like to work from an online copy!
If you attend conferences where publishers exhibit, express your dissatisfaction to those that do not sell their core texts to institutions, or consider filling out publisher surveys or sending a quick email to their "contact us" page that you'd like to see this text available through your library.
Levy Librarians have frequently discussed these issues at length with our publishing reps and we will continue to do so. Perhaps if they hear from enough of us, their policies will change! We can hope!
If you have any questions about this, please contact a librarian at firstname.lastname@example.org