Inside Higher Ed has reported that JSTOR, a full-text internet database, has begun teaming up with several university presses to offer full-texts books soon. Other university presses and organizations are trying to get more longform content online as well. Google Books already offers some complete books and previews or the partial contents of many more.
According to its official press release, JSTOR will be teaming up with Princeton, Yale, and the Universities of Minnesota, North Carolina, and Chicago. Content is expected to be online in 2012. JSTOR sees this as "the next step in a series of efforts to integrate scholarship across formats and media and to establish a platform where librarians, publishers, authors, and users can innovate in the future."
According to Inside Higher Ed, these books would be made available through a license purchase by a university, the same way JSTOR articles are accessed now. The goal is not to sell books to individual users. JSTOR also hopes to distinguish itself by assuring its content is peer-reviewed scholarship, rather than self-published material and unverified content which can find its way into a Google Books search.
The move to increase e-books comes against the backdrop of physical textbook cost complaints. As my colleague Greta Cunningham noted earlier this week, the University of Washington recently limited the total book cost for courses. If other universities follow suit, online content will become a more important component of many courses, making recently published, well-research online content vital. Perhaps we'll begin to see more libraries without books like that at the University of Texas.