Ereviews: McGraw-Hill Ebook Library | March 15, 2012


Content The McGraw-Hill eBook Library boasts more than 1400 nonfiction ebooks in four main subject areas: business , medicine, engineering and computing, and student study aids. Each subject area is divided into collections of between 15 and 150 titles. The material is relatively recent, with more than half of the books published within the last five years; additional subjects and titles will be added over time. With the exception of the student study aids, most of the titles are aimed at working professionals.

Texts in the business category offer résumé and interview tips, guidance for small business owners, and leadership and management strategies. In the medical area are professional development books for nurses, including the Nurse to Nurse series, study guides for medical students, and basic primary-care texts. The engineering and computing category offers titles on computer programming, such as the publisher’s Complete Reference series as well as books on chemical, civil, mechanical, and industrial engineering. Student study aids comprise AP test preparation and standardized testing guides, as well as the Demystified series that covers topics commonly studied in college. The books have varying purposes. Some, such as SQL: A Beginner’s Guide, are meant as go-to references, while others‚ Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty: Managing in a Downturn, for example‚ are intended for deep reading.

To find titles, users search the library or browse by collection; unfortunately, no finer browse options are available. An advanced search allows queries by title, author, ISBN, and category, in addition to basic keyword searches. Books are presented five at a time, so browsing is a slow process. Fortunately, MARC records are provided, and this means patrons can discover ebook content via the library OPAC.

The reading experience requires improvements. McGraw-Hill employs rather stringent Digital Rights Management (DRM) that limits users to reading titles only online; students cannot download books to their computers and read them later, for example, or load books to ereaders such as Kindle Fires or Nooks, though they can access the material using those devices’ browsers. Also, since the browser-based reader uses Adobe Flash, it is impossible for iPad users to view the books at all. Navigating individual titles is oddly cumbersome, with many small usability issues. For example, while patrons can zoom in or out on a page, clicking on a link in the table of contents to jump to a new section causes the view to revert to the default zoom. Text size is not adjustable, and printing is limited.

Unlike the ebooks created for ereaders that patrons may be familiar with, these ebooks are digital versions of the printed work and have not been reformatted for electronic devices. While this makes formatted tables, charts, and images easier to read, it creates some additional work to scroll through a page, then click to turn the page.

Users who register for accounts can highlight parts of books and add notes. However, most patrons won’t register and will never see these options. Upon registering, users receive a confirmation email that includes their password, which can be helpful but is not very secure.

The interface includes two personalized collections, My Shelf and My Folder. The former includes all books the library makes available, while the latter offers those to which the user has added notes or highlights. There is no way of adding a title to a folder without annotating it.

As well as MARC records for all items, McGraw-Hill provides two standard counter compliant reports about usage. Book Report 2 allows administrators to easily see which titles have been accessed by month, although this report could be improved by adding the ability to sort by collection. Book Report 5 lists searches and sessions by month. Additional useful reports would include the length of time spent with each title so administrators could better determine if patrons find the information useful.

Pricing Subscriptions are available to the entire library, individual collections, or clusters within collections (e.g., Process Management, Nursing, or Demystified) for one to four years. Pricing starts at $19,100 for the entire library and depends on population served for public libraries or FTE for academic institutions. It is also possible to purchase collections or clusters, though not individual titles.

Verdict This package is not strongly recommended owing to its usability issues. While the material will be of interest to public libraries and to academic institutions with nursing or business programs, DRM restrictions will make the books a hard sell to patrons. Many users find deep reading of an entire book on a computer screen unpleasant. The inability to transfer these items to an ereader diminishes the value of the collection.

Bonnie Swoger About Bonnie Swoger

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, Readers can contact her at