Ebrary and other overlooked academic benefits

“Ebrary? Oh, yeah, I think the university where I teach has that, but I wasn’t interested so I never looked into it.”

So said a young professor today when I mentioned ebrary. I actually had looked into it years ago when I worked at a different university. It was all right but I could only access on my computer and I spend so much time in front of my computer working that reading books on it didn’t particularly appeal to me except as a last resort. There is a lesson here about taking a second look at software applications and companies you dismissed five or more years ago. If they are still around, they are probably dramatically better – or they wouldn’t be still around.

What is ebrary? It’s a sort of electronic library. According to their website they have over 590,000 titles. They also now have an iPad app. It’s much, much simpler than when I used it in those pre-iPad days. You can register an account and then access it on your computer or download the app and read books on your iPad. You can also download many of the books so that if you happen to be traveling and you don’t have wi-fi, you can read the book on your device, then just click to return it when you are done. I’m not sure how many you can have out at a time. I currently have four. So, basically, imagine if you could get most of the books on Amazon, but free.

I have library cards to three libraries, and I drop in and browse at one of them once or twice a month, usually coming home with a dozen books. However, I’ve noticed that they seldom have the very up-t0-date books on programming topics that interest me. I don’t think a book on PHP or Javascript published in 2001 is necessarily what I had in mind.  You may find that your library has switched to getting its technology books through ebrary. When I looked for one on PHP, dozens popped up, a few of which I wanted to read.

Another resource to look into is if your university has a digital subscription to Safari O’Reilly books on-line, which also lets you download and print chapters. It also has apps for reading on mobile devices.

Some universities have a subscription to Lynda.com that offers online courses for learning about technology and design. I hate to say that I have never signed up for one despite all of the times that I looked at the website and thought, “That sounds interesting.”

There is also Film on Demand , which has around 7,000 educational films. You could show these in your class or just watch yourself to further your own education. I happened to watch a really interesting one on Rett Syndrome today.

I can’t imagine there is a university out there that does not have some type of full-text retrieval for journal articles. Personally, I’ve found those often to be so bent on preventing any unauthorized access that they can be a real pain. You might want to try the Directory of Open Access Journals instead, which is open to everyone.

All of the above have the benefit of not having to move. Since you are already sitting at your computer reading this, you might want to take ten minutes and see what your university offers that you might be missing.

reading at computer

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