In my department, we are floating the idea of replacing our library with a few E-Readers as often a handful of people will be researching a particular concept at the same time and sharing books becomes an issue.

This was originally cited as cost prohibitive, but it was proven that even if we have one E-Reader for every three employees, it is no more expensive in the long run than physical copies.

For anyone out there who has tried this, if we make the switch, is there one single factor that would cause us to decide to go back to a hard copy library?

Note: I'm only interested in the concept of sharing E-Readers in an office as opposed to the general advantages/disadvantages of E-Readers for an individual.

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    Consider getting the employees of your company a subscription to Books24x7 if you would also like a digital copy. This isnt something you need to maintain, other than the cost, and its an online library of thousands and thousands of books on every topic, its updated regularly by its owners and could be a very useful tool to you, this gives you the benefit of both the physical copies that you already own, as well as thousands of digital copies that you dont have to search for and buy yourself
    – user5305
    Mar 21, 2013 at 9:00

3 Answers 3


The real question is going to be whether you can get all of the relevant materials in digital form. Not every book published is published in a digital format, and your library probably already has a large number of volumes that aren't in digital form.

Even if you can get everything in digital form, can you get it all in the SAME digital form? Amazon has a pretty good selection of books, but they aren't the only ones out there, and sometimes publishers do crazy things.

As is often the case with electronic devices - content is king. If you can get ALL of the content you need on the device, then perhaps it makes sense. But if you've got a 30 year library of technical magazines that you regularly refer back to, then you probably can't make it work.

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    The issue of periodicals can be big. Where I work there is a library with journals going back at least 50 years, and many of those older publications are not digitizing their older materials ... IF they still exist.
    – GreenMatt
    Mar 20, 2013 at 20:48
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    And I've heard of a couple of places locally that got rid of the dead tree books and periodicals by tossing them! Those were older reference materials that will never be digitized. They said it was because the items were rarely used. Now they are never used. Mar 20, 2013 at 23:14
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    Getting rid of an existing (paper) library may depend on the industry. I am an IT guy, but work with scientists. For IT practiioners, the latest is usually (regarded as) the greatest, as the focus is on getting the job done. However, for many of the scientists I work with, going to the original source is desirable or even required - generally it's considered bad form to publish something which cites an article through a citation to a later article.
    – GreenMatt
    Mar 21, 2013 at 4:18
  • Getting a tablet-type instead of a e-reader proper can help with the formatting. For example, the Kindle Fire can install apps like the Nook reader and can read PDF (as a "Document" instead of a "Book"), and any android tablet can add Kindle and Nook apps. You just have to make sure it doesn't have access to download anything else later, for security reasons (cut it off from the wifi maybe?). Plus you can get tablets larger. Mar 21, 2013 at 12:41
  • There's Nook reader for the Kindle Fire? Oh frabjous day. Must go download. Then I can browse at B&N and buy e-books from them without feeling guilty.
    – HLGEM
    Mar 21, 2013 at 14:10

We considered going down that route earlier but gave up mainly because content, as mentioned by the others, was an issue.

  1. Old content just wasn't available and a lot of our work evolves around legacy systems.

  2. Not all new content was digitized depending on which part of the world you are at, especially the non-technical stuff.

  3. Not everyone was comfortable with e-Readers and a lot of them actually preferred hard-copy. Everyone also had access to the internet anyway and the e-Reader wasn't really giving us anything significantly different considering we all had personal tablets.

  4. Unless its 100% acceptance, we felt that we would invariably end up having to maintain BOTH a digital and physical library......

At the end of the day, the content drives the library. If you are confident that you can get what you need and the users are comfortable, I don't see why it wouldn't work.

In our case, we just weren't confident about both, so we decided against it.

  • 5. A lot of digitised books are digitised poorly, especially textbooks and reference works. Often graphics are almost impossible to read (and more often than not misplaced), colours of course are gone, pages squished, tables malformed, indices and tables of content non-existent or pointing to the wrong place, etc. etc.
    – jwenting
    Mar 21, 2013 at 8:00

Agreed on Content is king. I would research whether the books you want to have digitally are available that way and, if so, by whom and in what format.

I've made good use of a subscription to Safari Books online and that may be another option, assuming required material is present there. The pro is that you don't need a dedicated ereader in a physical form and the con is that you need to be online. I can't tell you whether this will suit your needs.

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