How To Compare e-Book Platforms – Part II

This is a continuation of a previous post, How To Compare e-Book Platforms – Part I, discussing the variety inherent in today’s e-Book offerings. These two posts are meant to help point you in the right direction with questions to ask vendors so that you can confidently evaluate the different packages. Here are some target areas and questions for you to consider asking vendors.


You’ll want to get to the heart of things by asking specific questions about the features and functionality that your patrons will want with regard to e-Books.

  • Can Users copy/paste? Whether they’re doing research, blogging, or just taking notes, many readers will want the ability to copy and paste sections of e-Books into Word or other programs. Not all e-Book packages come with this functionality.
  • Can Users print? (is there a limit?) - Nearly all e-Book packages have limitations on printing, however they really vary with how much a user can print at one time or overall.
  • Full-text search of books? One of the most useful features of e-Books when conducting research and doing non-fiction reading is the ability to quickly search the full text of the book. You’ll want to ask if this feature is offered.
  • Download for offline reading? A feature that I consider an absolute necessity of any e-Book package is the ability for patrons to be able to download the book for offline reading. At this point, nearly all packages offer this functionality, but it’s best to ask to be certain.
  • Annotations? - And a great new feature of e-Books is the ability to place annotations, or notes within the book, mimicking the practice of note taking within the margins of print books.

Sales/Pricing Model

Probably the biggest and most intimidating factor of trying to choose an e-Book platform to implement in your library is all of the different pricing models. Once again, it becomes like comparing apples to oranges and it’s difficult to get a gauge for how to determine which is the best value for the price. But after considering all of these options with different vendors, I found it was best to think about what type of model worked best with our library and then choose the most affordable one of those.

  • Platform fee? (Annual, one-time, etc.) - There is most often a platform fee for utilizing e-Book packages and it’s usually annual so you’ll want to find out how much this is and whether or not it’s waived if you purchase a certain amount of e-Books the previous year. There may also be a one-time set up fee to sign up with the vendor.
  • Single or multiple or unlimited use? This ranges widely according to e-Book vendor. Some packages offer unlimited use of e-Books meaning that any number of readers can view and download the same e-Book at the same time while others only offer single use of e-Books, similar to a print title being checked out. There are also variants that will offer a limited number of users at once.
  • Title cost relative to print cost? Many e-Book vendors charge the cost of a print title + a certain percentage for their e-Books. It’s important to find this out before signing up.
  • Much more on pricing models in Part III!