The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company is building a virtual library that will allow students, teachers or other researchers to search for and read digital books online for free. Researchers also will have the option to buy materials, offered online as .pdf (portable document format) files, in print form for a fee.
The site, expected to launch sometime next year, will also offer links to online booksellers that offer some of Ebrary's academic texts, according to the company.
Tuesday's deal with London-based publisher Taylor & Francis will allow Ebrary readers to search for texts in the sciences, humanities, social sciences and engineering fields.
E-books, or digital copies of printed works, have yet to become best sellers in the consumer market. Yet analysts say that the academic world, which spends a large amount of time searching for documents and research materials, could benefit from such a digital library.
"Fiction is certainly the sexier part of the market...but academics is huge," said IDC analyst Malcolm Maclachlan. "E-books definitely make sense for the academic market. The only people outside e-book makers I've ever seen who were excited about e-books were college professors."
Ebrary chief executive Christopher Warnock said publishers that offer materials for the virtual library will receive a percentage of revenue from prints or copies ordered from the Ebrary site.
"What we're doing is saying to publishers that the Internet holds another opportunity" for the industry, Warnock said. "The Internet has been proven to be very good as a marketing medium to promote books."
In October, Random House, Pearson and McGraw-Hill unveiled a joint financial investment in Ebrary.