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April 5, 2001

Short on funds? Try netLibrary

Can't afford a copy of "201 Winning Cover Letters for $100,000+ Jobs"?

Failing to find that literary landmark, "Ace Your Mid-Terms and Finals"?

Those and nearly 7,000 other popular books are available on-line to Pitt students, faculty and staff — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — through the University Library System's (ULS) netLibrary collection.

The great majority of ULS's approximately 120,000 e-books are scholarly works, many of them decades or even centuries old. But the University's netLibrary collection includes a wide range of popular titles, most of them published since 1990.

"You can access everything from computer how-to books to literature, history, economics, politics, music, art, science — almost every subject you can think of," said Rush G. Miller, Hillman University Librarian and ULS director.

The Boulder, Co.-based netLibrary, Inc. acquires rights to publish electronic versions of books from a wide range of publishers, including commercial companies as well as academic publishers such as the University of Pittsburgh Press.

ULS and other libraries, in turn, pay netLibrary for e-books they want for their own collections.

"We're adding new titles all of the time," Miller said. "We buy books from netLibrary just as we buy from any other publisher. For every book in our netLibrary collection [6,694 as of this week] we have paid for that book and we own it forever on-line.

"They're slightly more expensive than printed books, but there are no cataloguing or shelving costs and on-line books don't get lost or stolen. If you look at all of those factors, it's probably cheaper in the long run than buying a printed book."

Many of the books in ULS's netLibrary collection aren't available at Pitt libraries in printed form. "A book like 'The Dummy's Guide to Windows' isn't something that would typically be purchased by an academic library, but you can read it on your computer screen through netLibrary," Miller said.

The University's Book Center may not welcome it, but netLibrary has the potential to save Pitt students money on textbooks. If a book is available for free on-line, why make students buy a printed copy?

Miller said he taught a course last fall in which one of the assigned books (which retailed for $65) happened to be available through netLibrary. "It was a coincidence, nothing I'd planned, but when I found out the book was available through netLibrary I told my students they could read the assigned chapters on-line," Miller said. "It saved them $65 each."

Pitt students, faculty and staff can access netLibrary through ULS's PITTCat on-line catalogue.

Miller suggested the following shortcut: Go to PITTCat and click on the "author/title/subject" box. Under "search by," click "author." Then type "netLibrary." The words "netLibrary, Inc." will appear, indicating 6,694 titles. Click on that line and the list of netLibrary books will appear, 50 titles at a time.

— Bruce Steele

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