My Loser Boyfriend: eBooks

As much as I love ebooks and technology, they are like a crummy loser boyfriend.  Full of ups and downs that take you on a roller coaster of emotions only leaving you to love them one minute and hate them the next.  Just like that loser boyfriend they have money issues and sometimes I find myself humming Joan Jett, “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” when dealing with them.


  • They are available whenever, wherever, and can’t be stolen, lost, or damaged.
  • Using ebooks I can provide information to patrons across the hospital at the time of need and they don’t have to come to the library.
  • Many ebooks can be updated more often than traditional print books.


  • The distribution of medical ebooks is STILL behind the public library model (and while the public library model isn’t that spectactular it runs circles around what we have). 
  • Publishers who require an ADDITIONAL logins if you are using a smart phone.  It is confusing to patrons, they don’t understand why they are being asked for a password when they are on the hospital network.  In this instance they don’t think of their phone any differently than a lap top. (ahem MDConsult/Elseveier)
  • Many ebooks are stuck in publisher silos, can’t be searched effectively.  No NORMAL person knows to go directly to StatRef to search, then AccessMedicine, then MDConsult, etc.  They just know they want a book on a topic and they want to type in the topic somewhere and be presented with a list of ALL the ebooks that has their topic.  Some librarians say…ah use the catalog.  Ptthbbb, ever try searching for a chapter topic or something else within the content of the book in the catalog?  It sucks.


  • Few companies have a few book titles that can be downloaded to a mobile device but they are way too expensive because we have to BUY the book and they don’t have a circulating model plan (ala public libraries).   Large publisher’s with books we need and pay lots of money for can’t be downloaded to any mobile device, they are web enabled…yeah patrons love hearing that. 
  • I get the idea that an online book is more expensive than in print because it can be viewed by many, but if one online title is a 1/3 of my book budget, I can’t buy it no matter how much I want to have it online.
  • We all are either scraping by on less budget or a flat budget while just trying to keep current library resources that keep getting more expensive. I have no flexibility to “try” your new product.  I don’t care if it is cool and it addresses a need, I can’t afford it.  The price might be reasonable or it might be whack-a-doodle but I still can’t afford it without dropping something.  My wish list is a mile long and it isn’t getting shorter with items that are reasonable (as well as whack-a-doodle) pricing. 

Right now we are all searching for the Mr. Right of ebooks.  Part of the difficulty is that Mr. Right for me might be Mr. Wrong for somebody else.  But our potential boyfriends (the publishers) need to step it up considerably if they want to be Mr. Right for any library because it seems many of us are unhappy and currently settling for Mr. Right Now.  

This what my patrons want (therefore this what I want):

  • eBook platforms that work on lap tops AND are downloadable to a mobile device (not web enabled to a mobile device).
    • We need the core chunk of titles that we are CURRENTLY buying from you, don’t increase the price so that one dinky little title is $2000 online and a established plain ol’ text (not a even a reference book) is $15,000.  That my friends, is whack-a-doodle pricing. We don’t buy online books like that now, making it “downloadable” at that price is not going to change our mind or our budget.
      • For example AccessMedicine, MDConsult, Ovid get your ebook platforms that we are already buying downloadable….now!
  • We are very open to the circulation model of ebooks.  Public libraries are doing it and our patrons seem to understand that concept. This is a nice alternative to buying the title and should be cheaper than buying the title.  Think of it as renting.
    • We need a collection of decent titles. Not a pittance of specialty books.  We need/want the Harrison’s, Hurst’s, DeVita’s, etc.  We need real titles, don’t shove your Big Toe Science book in there, unless we are podiatrists we don’t want them and won’t buy them.
  • Eliminate the artificial barriers for access.  We do a VERY good job of maintaining proper access to our online resources (becasue your license agreements require us).  We know better than you do who our patrons are and when to cut them off, so let us do our jobs and stop putting up extra logins while people are on network or proxied.  If our patrons get confused, they don’t use, if they don’t use we don’t buy. Plain and simple, extra loggins affect our usage stats (negatively) and we don’t buy or drop your stuff if our usage stats go down.  Remember we have wish list a mile long waiting for weakness in a product. 

Some day I hope that I am able to look back at ebooks like I do at my old loser boyfriends; a phase that I had to go through in order to meet Mr. Right.

10 thoughts on “My Loser Boyfriend: eBooks”

  1. “No NORMAL person knows to go directly to StatRef to search, then AccessMedicine, then MDConsult, etc. They just know they want a book on a topic and they want to type in the topic somewhere and be presented with a list of ALL the ebooks that has their topic.”
    Yes, yes, yes!

  2. This would make an awesome poster. I’m envisioning the old Dream Date board game as inspiration for the graphics.

  3. Once again you have summed up with a good twist the frustrations we all are feeling. One of my biggest frustrations is when someone wants an eBook and it does not even come in that format. “How can that be?” they ask. My new answer is going to be, it’s like a loser boyfriend.

  4. Excellent article. This is the perfect analogy. All of our users want e books, but when we do buy the few available, they are so undiscoverable that they don’t get used nearly as much as they should be.

    They die a slow, lonely, unused death in the bowels of our catalogue.

  5. And another thing. Please don’t try to sell hospitals gigantic packages loaded with medical classics like Harvey’s book on circulation from the 1600s. Maybe they do this because it worked with academic libraries who are supposed to have a historical depth of material. But in a hospital, it just makes librarians look like dummies who don’t know how to collect for clinical purposes. We just won’t buy it.

  6. We use EBL extensively and find them great. There are 80,000 staff in our organization (a large state health organization) and I can buy an ebook for pretty much the same price as one print copy and yet the book can now be accessed by all our staff both at work and at home

  7. Our ebooks can be used at home via our proxy server no problem, but they can’t be downloaded and read on an iPad, Kindle, etc. Basically read offline. They are web enabled…based on questions my patrons are asking, they want to download the books not read them online and always be connected to the Internet.
    What kind of medical text titles does EBL have? Their product catalog doesn’t really list their products or their subject areas which is frustrating. Do they LWW, McGraw Hill, Elsevier, titles?

    Finally when you mentioned you buy an ebook for about the same price as one print copy are you on a one concurrent user license or a site license. When that one ebook is in use is it useable to somebody else within the organization at the same time?

  8. So true! Well said. I have a real temptation to “Share” this with our Elsevier, Stat!Ref reps….

  9. Don’t forget that you don’t own any of your e-books. You are just leasing them.

  10. I am good with just leasing them. It is cheaper and we don’t hold on to our printed books long at all. We are hospital and only want current texts. Old stuff got sold for a $1 or thrown away. Even before ebooks we never had the idea that we had to hold on to books. The only reasoned we “owned” them was because that was the only acquisition method at the time.
    Perhaps if I was in a college library that had to worry about ACRL status or needed historical research, then I would be more concerned. But we have always had a “current” collection, the leasing ebook model fits right in with that collection development plan.

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