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Reading in Spanish: The e-Libro Way
Volume 39, Number 4 - July/August 2015

Spanish readers in the United States are beginning to get their share of ebook titles. Driven by the privately held company e-Libro (“libro” is Spanish for “book”), more than 80,000 titles are available to library users through the mainstream U.S.-based ebook aggregators ProQuest and EBSCO, and the number grows daily. In 2014, e-Libro developed five ebook collections specifically for U.S. research libraries and also added collections for public libraries and community colleges. The ebooks can be purchased for the EBSCO or the ProQuest ebrary platforms through YBP’s GOBI service; e-Libro collections are also available on the relatively new BiblioBoard ( platform.

The company is not new. It was founded by Eduardo Varela-Cid in 1998, and its first website,, soon became the leader in virtual publishing for the Spanish language. When Varela-Cid met ebrary co-founder Christopher Warnock, he was so impressed with the ebrary platform, he wanted to take it to Latin America. In 1999, e-Libro obtained a license to the ebrary technology and established it as A strong partnership between ebrary and e-Libro continues to this day, and e-Libro has become a thriving and indispensable resource throughout Spain and Latin America, where, in addition to providing ebooks, it offers editorial, publishing, and distribution services to academic and government publishers. At its exhibit booth at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting, e-Libro director Jorge L. Schcolnik told me that e-Libro actively seeks out appropriate content in countries in Latin America. Many small publishers might not otherwise be able to publish and distribute reports and small monographs without the assistance of e-Libro technology.

Publishers and Collections

The list of publishers ( that supply some or all of their publications is impressive and represents some 20 countries. While the focus is on Spain and Latin America, there are also publishers from Portugal and Brazil (the site has been developed as primary interface to the Portuguese-speaking world). Spain has the most participating publishers—134 as of early March—and, at 65, Argentina is the South American country with the most publishers. Canada, the U.S. (Estados Unidos), and Italy are small contributors.

The 80,000-plus titles, which include monographs, journal articles, and historical documents, may be acquired in a variety of ways: title-by-title purchase, PDA (patron-driven acquisition), and subscription collections. Topical collections, which comprise 800–1,000 titles each, include Political Science, History, Language and Literature, Religion, Indigenous Studies, Gender Studies, Medicine, and the Arts. An e-Libro Community College/Career Tech collec tion for associate degree colleges has also been assembled, offering titles in the following subjects:

  • Accounting
  • Career Development & Guidance
  • Computers
  • Crime & Criminology
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Human Resources
  • Industrial Management
  • Nursing & Allied Health
  • Project Management
  • Vocational Education & Guidance

Finally, there is a Classic Literature collection, comprised of more than 2,000 open access titles in classic literature from Spain and Latin America. This collection, offered free of charge to customers of other e-Libro products, is available for purchase at a special discounted price as a stand-alone.

e-Libro subscription pricing is based on FTE (full-time employment) of the university or population for public libraries. Prices start at $5,000 and go up to $15,000 for the full 80,000 items (including 30,000 books). Pricing for individual titles is determined by the publishers and based on the list prices of the books. The e-Libro publisher contract was modeled on the ebrary contract, with the digital list price based on the print price of the book. Publishers decide which edition guides the digital list price—typically but not always this is the cloth price. Discounts are available for quantity purchases, perpetual access, and consortia buying.

Searching Topics

The e-Libro platform is built on ebrary technology, and access is facilitated by ebrary, so many users will be familiar with the interface. Login defaults to a Spanish interface, but you can switch easily to an English-language version (or any of eight other languages). One of the first links you will see is the All Subjects (Todos los temas ) link. Interestingly, when you go to Seleccionar un tema in Spanish, you will still get the topic list in English. You know right away that regardless of your choices, searching is not going to be a totally Spanish (or totally English) experience in e-Libro; it is going to be bilingual—or even multilingual. The following are the top-level topics in the database:

  • Agriculture
  • Auxiliary Sciences of History
  • Bibliography, Library Science, Information Resources (General)
  • Education
  • Fine Arts
  • General Works
  • Geography, Anthropology, Recreation
  • History (General) and History of Europe
  • History: America
  • Language and Literature
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Military Science
  • Music and Books on Music
  • Naval Science
  • Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
  • Political Science
  • Science
  • Social Sciences
  • Technology

If you click on a top-level topic, you advance to a screen with subtopics, together with an indication of the number of items in the database matching those subtopics, and the first page of search results. You can click further to go to a third-level subtopic. In addition to browsing topics, fielded search and more advanced options are available.

The 600-plus contributors are primarily but not exclusively academic presses, government agencies, and other nonprofits, often small; content is heavily social sciences and humanities, but includes strengths in medicine and the various sciences. Both publishers and topics are fitted for what e-Libro sees as the major two segments of the U.S. market: 1) researchers and faculty in Latin American studies and 2) Spanish-speaking students and patrons.

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Now based in Cincinnati, Susanne Bjørner ( previously lived for a dozen years in Spain but is not Hispanic. She is the author of a series of articles appearing in Searcher magazine from 2010–2012 on searching Spanish-language reference databases.


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