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Innovation: Comparing Print & eBooks

This guide helps VDOT employees explore books (both "printed books and eBooks) related to innovation.

Print and eBook Availability at VDOT

VDOT employees can borrow from a collection of 60,000 print books held by the VDOT Library. The Library also provides access to: reports, standards, articles and other types of information, increasingly in electronic formats. eBooks are a great example of a new way for libraries to help patrons access quality publications remotely, with a few clicks. VDOT employees can search a collection of 100,000 eBooks, and start using those books immediately.

Print and eBooks can be discovered through the Library's Online Catalog, however, it may take new users some practice to distinguish a record for a print book from an eBook. Furthermore, VDOT's eBook subscriptions come from several different vendor lending platforms, each of which has a unique "look and feel" in addition to eBook file "formats" which can also cause some confusion.

Print Book Lending: The Basics

Sometimes the clear preference is for a book in its printed format. Borrowing printed books from a library may not be glamorous, but most VDOT employees understand the basics of: Checkout, Renewals and Holds. For details about lending periods see our page on Borrowing.

Due to recent COVID-19 changes, the library has either been closed to in-person visitors or greatly limited. Even staff access to the library has been restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We now staff the library 3 days a week and we find and ship printed books (and other "hard copy" materials) upon request free of charge to VDOT employees anywhere in the United States. VDOT employees are responsible for shipping borrowed items back to us. 

For step-by-step instructions on how to search the Online Catalog and check out a book remotely, visit the Library Catalog Quick Start Guide.

Pros of Print Books: Cons of Print Books: Considerations for Print Books:

• Easy to use (explanation is usually not necessary)

• Easy for libraries to purchase and loan

• Requires no hardware, software or electricity

• Portable, affordable & "owned" by VDOT

• Can be "checked out" remotely

• Library ships free of charge

• No overdue fines, unlimited renewals

• One user at a time, per copy

• Requires in-person visit or library shipping

• Books can be damaged or lost in transit

• User must "return" (ship back) items when done

• Less "instant gratification" factor

• May have to wait in line to "borrow" popular titles, unless the library has multiple copies

• InterLibrary Loans can be helpful for accessing extra copies

• Content is not "linked" to other resources, other parts of the book

eBook Lending: Different From 'Print Lending'

Sometimes an eBook is preferred. An eBook is defined as an electronic version of a high-quality print book, which contains Digital Rights Management (DRM) controls, and which is made accessible to authorized VDOT users through licensing between VDOT and the vendor or publisher.

If you imagine a printed book as a "container" when you borrow the book, the "content" (information in the book) goes everywhere the "container" goes. The same is not true with eBooks that VDOT licenses. Those are controlled by the publisher or vendor through a special eBook viewing/lending platform and DRM. VDOT's current licenses allow for an unlimited number of employees to access the same book at the same time (good), but some publishers put some unusual constraints on downloading/printing of eBook content.

Pros of eBooks: Cons of eBooks: Considerations for eBooks:

• Convenience, particularly remote access

Easy to search, read, save and print "portions" 

Unlimited simultaneous users across all of VDOT

• Features like: online notes, bookmarks, "last used" and "recommended"

• Works from VDOT or personal desktop, laptop, tablets or smartphones

• No need to "check out" or "ship back" books—just "access" an eBook as many times as needed

• Features like: bookmark, notes, share a link

• VDOT "licenses" access, does not own eBooks

• Eye strain or other physical considerations, depending on the device and the setting

• Features, functionality and formats vary by vendor platform, which can confuse some users who want to focus on book content, not book lending systems

• Publisher pricing and availability for libraries is spotty (eBooks can far more expensive, far less flexible to lend, or simply unavailable to libraries at any price)

• Formats (HTML, PDF, EPUB) can be confusing

• Best for "quick reference" reading

• Can be problematic to move to or view on dedicated eBook readers

• Publisher restrictions often limit downloading, copying or printing

• User's experience "borrowing" from a library is not the same as "buying" from an eBook vendor

• The VDOT Library does not "own" eBooks, but "licenses" them

• Most libraries cannot borrow/lend eBooks via ILL

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