Content Ebrary has recently released three ebook packages aimed at medical students and practitioners: the Medicine pack, the Nursing & Allied Health pack, and the Psychology & Social Work pack. Each contains 40 titles, all from the past two years (79 from 2010, 41 from 2011).
The titles here come from more than 30 publishers, the most popular being Cambridge University Press, Guilford Press, Oxford University Press, Springer, and Wiley.
Publications fall into three main categories: basic medical texts (Nursing Theories and Nursing Practice, Anxiety 101), more advanced works (Imaging of Vertebral Trauma, Atherosclerosis: Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms), and professional development and educational titles (Transformational Leadership in Nursing, Case Studies in Emergency Medicine). Several titles, such as Origins of AIDS or Plagues in World History, may also be of interest to lay readers. MARC records are included with the purchase of all titles.
Usability Users are likely to access these items via two mechanisms: by searching the platform directly or by accessing individual titles via a library catalog or discovery platform. It’s also possible to search Ebrary via a simple or advanced search. Simple search offers a Google-like search box, while advanced allows users to add multiple search fields (title, author, ISBC, etc.) and limit queries to particular collections.
By default, search results are presented sorted by title, though sometimes defaulting to the relevance sort would be more useful. Users can re-sort by relevance, publisher, or date. Two search results screens are available: “Title results,” which provides a list of books, and “Chapter results,” offering a list of individual chapters. Since the search tool scans the full text of each title, the “Chapter results” tab is often more helpful.
The only native browsing functionality allows users to browse all items, but advanced search offers the opportunity to limit by subject or examine an entire collection.
Searches may be saved or exported as .csv files. Without opening the book, users can preview a table of contents, download metadata to Endnote or Refworks, and download parts of the book to a computer.
Books can be read within the browser, or by using the optional, Java-based Ebrary reader. Titles load fairly quickly within the browser, although the Java applet can take longer. Both methods allow users to select and copy text, highlight it, and easily jump from one section to another via the table of contents. Unfortunately, the default text size is relatively small, and some readers may find reading on the screen tiring even at 200 percent zoom. Ebrary’s reader has more functionality than the browser-based one: researchers can take notes, listen to a computerized reading, and set preferences such as text size. The computerized voice feature has options for a male or female voice and adjustable speed and pitch.
Books accessed through a search within the Ebrary platform have the relevant search terms highlighted in the text. Buttons lead to the next search result in a title, although, since they include an image of a magnifying glass, they may appear to patrons to control the zoom of the page.
Importantly, users can download portions of each title to read offline. Up to 60 pages at a time can be downloaded as a watermarked, image-based PDF file that can be transferred to ereaders or iPads, although the text is no longer searchable. In addition, the PDF can be difficult to read on an ereader because the text size cannot be altered, making it necessary to zoom and shift constantly while reading.
A searchable version of the material can be downloaded via Adobe Digital Editions to be read offline for up to 14 days, but not transferred to an ereader or mobile device. Although some Ebrary promotional materials indicate that an iOS reader is available, sign-in and authentication for this option is one of the more complicated processes I’ve seen.
Within the platform, the “Quickview” tab defaults to the most recently read book, and a “Bookshelf” option encourages users to add their favorite titles to their own personalized collections. As in many platforms, advanced features such as custom bookshelves and note taking are available only to registered users. Unfortunately, the platform limits downloads to signed-in users as well.
Pricing Ebook packs can be purchased individually under a perpetual archive model; all include MARC records. Medicine costs $4,870.36; Nursing & Allied Health, $2,726.79; and Psychology & Social Work is $2,616.20. Other purchase options include subscriptions, patron-driven acquisition (PDA), and short-term loan.
Verdict While this platform has some weaknesses, the speed of opening titles and the Java reader’s accessibility options make it a decent option for ebook access. While public and academic libraries without relevant programs will find only a few useful titles here, the packages are recommended for libraries in medical and nursing schools, clinical psychology programs, and healthcare facilities.