Last Fall, Yuba College Library acquired access to Ebrary, a searchable e-book database with access to thousands of titles. Now, you may be thinking, “why do that when we have Google for free?” And the answer is something along the lines of “because you get what you pay for.” Let me explain.
Library systems are highly specialized. People who work for them spend countless hours devising cataloguing standards that allow you to conduct simple keyword searches, title searchers, subject or topic searches, searches within searchers, and further segment your results by date, relevance, type of publication, or whether it is available in full text. In theory, this means that you will get more accurate information faster and, because you can save your search results, will be able to retrieve it again easily in the future.
Yes, I know, with its advanced search features, Google Books can do much the same thing…with one exception: On Google Books the really good stuff is for pay.
You don’t believe me? Try a search on Google Books and before you get too excited, look on the left side bar and click on “Free Google eBooks.” Now, watch your fancy list of results whittle down to a bunch of old, government-sponsored, irrelevant, and generally sad-looking publications. On a library system like Ebrary, while it, too, does not necessarily have immediate access to every book in creation, it is not stingy about providing you with access to good, current titles. That’s because what the library does is generously pay for access to those titles on your behalf. Google will never do that.
In fact, “free” is the whole purpose of Ebrary’s existence. As Ebrary co-founder Christopher Warnock said recently, “If every library acquired information digitally, all the world’s information would be free to everybody.” Generally speaking, that is what librarians want to do also, which is why we are always dissing Google. We know, we know, Google is so much easier and friendlier to use. But if you can’t find what you’re looking for and you have to pay for it when you get there, what is the point? I’m sorry, are you rich? This economy too successful for you? The library gives it away for free, FREE! You might as well take advantage of that.
Also, Ebrary offers some key benefits to disabled learners or users with accessibility issues. This video helpfully explores those options. As the video points out, Ebrary is akin to a free electronic library, so users can still acquire the materials they need, as well as take advantage of technological features that help facilitate access.
We hope you will try Ebrary the next time you need to do your research, or simply want to read a (good) free book. And if you need book suggestions, don’t forget to ask us at the library!