Are e-books for everyone? An evaluation of academic e-book platforms' accessibility features

Publication Date


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Collection Development and Management | Library and Information Science | Scholarly Publishing

Publication Title

Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship


With the increasing prevalence of e-books in academic library collections, faculty and librarians have begun to express concern regarding the accessibility of these digital texts for students with physical or learning disabilities. To begin addressing these concerns, the California State University System's Affordable Learning Solutions initiative—a campaign designed to encourage faculty use of library e-books and open-access texts as replacements for expensive textbooks—funded the Ebooks Accessibility Project at San Jose State University (SJSU). The Ebooks Accessibility Project evaluated the major accessibility features of 16 of the most popular academic e-book platforms in academic libraries. It was discovered that single-publisher platforms, such as Gale, Palgrave, and Springer, offered more accessibility features than aggregators like ProQuest and ACLS Humanities. Both single publisher and aggregator platforms, however, lack basic accessibility features that commercial e-book providers have long offered, such as background contrast adjustment and page reflow. On the positive side, most of the publishers evaluated did offer text resizing (or zoom) and were compatible with some form of screen reading technology, the most important features for users with print disabilities. Librarians are encouraged to let publishers know that accessibility is a major consideration in their e-book adoptions and urge their compliance with common accessibility standards.


Academic libraries, accessibility, e-books, publishers, publishing


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