And now for something completely different… well slightly

Balancing the e-books

Why did we do it?

Our previous e-book pilots have been conducted using the VitalSource platform; plenty of features, an e-book for the student to keep and good analytics for staff – but with cost implications to match.

This year we ran a small number of pilots using Wiley texts, securing institutional access to the titles via Proquest (EBL) rather than VitalSource, in order to investigate an alternative method of providing access at a lower unit cost.


Price; it is much cheaper paying for institutional access based on student numbers rather than paying on the basis of 1-2-1 model, providing a copy of the text for each student. Crucially, you know the price up front, so it’s easier to budget.

Institutional access; meant we were providing access for all our users rather than just to those on a particular unit/module, thereby adding to our collection.

Platform familiarity; the EBL platform may currently be more familiar to our students as it is similar to those of other aggregator platforms (although this could also prove a drawback if previous experiences have been poor!)

Administration; the work involved for the Library during set-up was reduced, with no complex user statistics to unpick, payments to be made on a scheduled basis, less need for training and support.

Alternative model; we needed to test an alternative model (not based on usage and via VitalSource)

VLE integration; can be added to Blackboard as hyperlink, but not fully embedded as with VitalSource


Download and printing restrictions.

Limited collaborative functionality.

Limited usage analytics; this was a definite downside, limiting the comparable data we can use to assess the relative take-up of the Wiley textbooks, and useable information we could provide our academic staff with.

VLE integration; doesn’t fully embed within the VLE.

No access in perpetuity to individual; not providing students with their own copy to keep in perpetuity.

What do we want to find out?

We want to look at what effect the difference in platform has on usage/uptake, and on the user experience.  Do the bells and whistles and the provision of a ‘copy of your own to keep’ actually matter to the students (as we are paying more for this!)?

Will the restrictions on what you can do with the text from a tutor’s perspective(less emphasis on the collaborative element or embedding sections within the VLE) affect their experience, and the impact it has on their teaching?

We are increasingly finding that teaching staff are particularly interested in the more granular usage data provided on how their students are reading , which is a key to the work we are doing with VitalSource on their beta statistics dashboard. So we will need to assess whether the limited usage statistics provided on this alternative platform for our Wiley titles significantly limits the benefits for our teaching staff.

Olivia Walsby, University of Manchester Library

photo credit: DorkyMum via flickr (license)

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