O’Reilly for Higher Education

Formerly Safari Tech Books Online

What is it?

The O’Reilly for Higher Education platform contains over 55,000 items (including 45,000 ebooks, as well as videos and audiobooks). This database is included in the ProQuest offerings from the Community College League of California consortium. Topics include programming, data science, security, business, and design. The content is made available from O’Reilly Media Inc., as well as For Dummies, Jossey-Bass, Packt, and more. It is significantly more expensive than other ebooks subscriptions, and similar in price to some streaming media subscriptions.

Quick Evaluation

The former Safari Tech Books platform subscription with ProQuest was phased out a few years ago, and institutions had the opportunity to migrate to the O’Reilly platform. At a cost, the O’Reilly platform contains much more content than the previous Safari Tech Books collection. In addition, libraries are no longer allowed to gain access with simple IP address authentication. O’Reilly must be able to identify unique users on the platform, so they use an “anonymous, based on a unique, persistent user identifier.” To ensure this, libraries can enable access by requiring the educational institution email address, single sign-on integration, or a unique EZProxy stanza. (The ability to identify unique platform users is a move likely to occur with many library content providers.) Creating a user account is available, and required for additional features (like saving to a playlist) and offline access via the mobile device app.

The O’Reilly platform enables libraries to support an increasing need for technology related content needed to support community college curriculums. Much of the publisher content on this platform keeps current with the rapid shifts in the tech field (such as updated ebooks as programming languages grow and split). Many of the texts are also used by companies in the industry. The content can be accessed by unlimited users at any given time, which may be ideal for supplementing class texts. However, like many other ebook and streaming media platforms, content may be added and deleted at the whim of a publisher. For “course” content, it is possible for students to select based on an employment role (such as "frontend developer") or skill (such as "CompTIA").

The interface feels nice, but a couple features are puzzling. Since the texts flow with a scroll (rather than flipping pages), there is a lack of page numbers. To ameliorate this, the vendor includes the ‘time remaining’ in the corner of the interface. While this is meant to help a user gauge how far along they are in the content, some student users have interpreted this as the amount of time they are given before they are locked out of the text. In addition, the “audiobook” interface is barren. On the desktop site, the table of content navigation pops out on the right side, which feels like a nicer way to explore these ebooks (especially in contrast to other sites for which some of these texts can be purchased). The login system is cumbersome for students who are used to logging into a campus system to gain proxy access. For library administrators, there does not appear to be customization options (such as adding a campus logo), and while usage reports are available, they are not COUNTER compliant.

The site and content are mobile responsive. In order to use material in an “offline” mode, students must create a user account and use this in the O’Reilly mobile device app.

O’Reilly sends a KBART file to Ex Libris on a weekly basis, which keeps the electronic collection in Alma for discovery in Primo fairly current. At the time of writing, it was not apparent that a LTI integration was available for Canvas.

The O'Reilly VPAT completed in January 2023 evaluates the web platform to WCAG 2.1 Level AA. Some areas of concern to consider, as identified in the VPAT, are related to lack of image alt text, uneven captioning, a lack of audio description, and lack of labeling.

The O’Reilly privacy policy is quite unwieldy in length, touching on similar things to other vendors (such as cookie tracking, individual user accounts, etc), and they include a fairly detailed section on how they use information for marketing purposes and cross-device tracking. In addition, they note “We do not respond to or honor [Do Not Track] signals or similar mechanisms transmitted by web browsers at this time.”

Relevant Links

O’Reilly for Higher Education LibGuide

O'Reilly for Higher Education Privacy Policy

Content Providers

If you have any experience with this product, please leave a comment and rate its appropriateness for use in a community college environment.

† The offers and trials information are password protected. Actual prices are confidential between the vendor and the consortium.

For access contact Amy Beadle, Library Consortium Director, 916.800.2175.

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