How To Compare e-Book Platforms – Part I

There are a lot of variations between e-Book platforms. So much so that it often seems like comparing apples to oranges. These posts will attempt to clear up much of the confusion and set you on a path to confidently evaluate and compare the different offerings.

There are certain specifications that you’ll want to ask vendors about such as whether they allow downloading of e-books for offline reading, etc. Here are some target areas and questions for you to consider asking vendors.


Technical Requirements


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At the outset you’ll want to know about what the e-books are going to be compatible with. You’ll want to ask the vendor specifically about:

  • Browser compatibility – Which browsers can they be read on? Let’s face it, many of your patrons will want to read the e-books you’re offering on their desktop computers. Not everyone has a mobile tablet for reading e-books yet.
  • Plugins or software required? – You’ll want to know just how complicated it will be for your patrons to read these e-books, do they need to download a lot of software in order to view them?
  • Device compatibility? – Not all e-Books can be read on all devices. You’ll want to know which devices can be used so that you can prepare to support them.
  • Do they use EPUB? – The EPUB format is an open standard for e-Books, and it is the format that is readable by the most devices available now. Many vendors are working toward making their e-Books available in EPUB format which will be beneficial to your patrons.
  • Data metrics available? Will there be analytics and reports available with the e-Book platform so that you can view usage patterns, etc.?



  • Scope - What is the scope of their e-Book collection? Is it a scholarly collection aimed at academic libraries or is it a collection of legal e-books?
  • Number of titles – How many titles do they have? It’s great to sign up for access to a niche collection but if they only have a few hundred titles it might not be worth making your patrons and staff learn how to use their interface.
  • Number of publishers – Likewise how many publishers do they offer titles from? And you can also check their website or blog to see if they announce new publishers that have been added with regularity.
  • MARC records? – Many e-book packages come with complimentary MARC records, this is important if you’re getting a patron-driven acquisitions package (see explanation below) where you could be adding more than 50k new records into your catalog at once.
  • Embargo period? - Although the trend has shifted and publishers aren’t holding back with their e-books as much nowadays, some of them still enforce an embargo period before the e-book is available. You’ll want to ask about this.
  • Learn about functionality in Part II!