E-Preferred Book Acquisitions Policy

Yale University Library (YUL) seeks to acquire resources that support the university’s teaching, research, and public missions, in alignment with the library’s Collection Development Philosophy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused extreme disruption at Yale University. With the campus closed and classes moved online, the university community lost access to the library’s extensive physical collections, along with print books through BorrowDirect and interlibrary loan. In response, the library rapidly sourced e-versions for approximately 60% of the items on physical reserves. As a member of the HathiTrust Digital Library, YUL has provided online access to approximately 2 million in-copyright books through HathiTrust’s Emergency Temporary Access Service.

In addition, the library has continued to acquire e-books on request from Yale community members throughout the current crisis, and initiated expedited purchases of e-book packages consisting of thousands of current and recently published titles. These purchases were in response to the University’s Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences Subcommittee’s request for expanded e-book access, and were guided by usage data and the expertise of our subject librarians.

While the University is planning for the resumption of on-campus research, including library services, unimpeded access to the library’s physical collections is unlikely to be fully restored in the near future, and possibly for many months to come. While there are plans for some students to be are back on campus for the Fall 2020 semester, courses will need to have an online component, and many community members will continue to work remotely.

Under these circumstances and in accord with the library’s Strategic Directions, the library is implementing an e-preferred policy for books using the selection principles and criteria outlined below. While print remains a preferred format for many Yale community members, increased access to e-books and online content enables teaching and research to continue in the current crisis. The Yale University Library is committed to supporting teaching and research as our response to the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. We will revisit and revise this policy as needed, but no later than January 2021.  


Selection principles and criteria

The e-book marketplace continues to evolve and present an increasing number of publishers, platforms, pricing, content, and access models. 

The following principles and criteria guide the library's acquisition of e-books:

Access and discoverability

  • E-book provides simultaneous access by unlimited number of users.
  • E-book is accessible to Yale authorized users, walk-in users, and via scholarly and resource sharing.
  • E-book is indexed in major databases and discovery tools.
  • Vendor is able to provide the library with quality catalog records in a timely and accurate manner to facilitate discoverability of content.

Function and accessibility

  • E-book platform supports IP authentication (including the right to provide remote access to authorized users) or single sign-on via CAS authentication.
  • E-book platform does not have digital rights management (DRM) restrictions. Users are able to copy, forward, download, print or otherwise manipulate content. 
  • E-book platform supports screen-readers and other assistive technologies so that the Library can comply with legal standards and university policies. 
  • Content is accessible across a variety of devices (mobile-responsive).
  • Users are able to navigate cleanly among chapters and easily move between endnotes/footnotes/bibliography and main text.

Ownership and cost

  • E-books should be purchased in perpetuity and not leased.  
  • E-books should not be duplicated across multiple online platforms.
  • Provider allows for perpetual access rights (e.g., PORTICO, LOCKSS, or CLOCKSS) including the ability to locally host content.
  • E-book cost is aligned with the average print monograph cost within that discipline.
  • Provider can provide usage statistics on a regular basis. 

Exceptions to the E-preferred Policy


  • Print is specifically requested by a member of the Yale community for curricular or research purposes.[1] Please note the expectation is for Fall 2020 course reserves to be limited to electronic resources only.


  • An institutional license is unavailable for an electronic format.
  • There is a delay between the print publication and the electronic edition.

Access model:

  • E-book is only available to lease, i.e. no perpetual access. 


  • The platform does not meet library function and accessibility criteria as noted in the policy. 


  • The print has better quality images, graphs, charts or other important visual content.
  • The library has the consortial responsibility to acquire a print copy. 
  • Yale faculty-authored books are not subject to this policy.

Approved: Library Executive Committee, July 8, 2020


[1] Duplication in print is dependent on available funding.
Last modified: 
Wednesday, October 7, 2020 - 9:52am