So I recently e-mailed my PI at the UIC lab where I work asking whether I could get journal access through UIC (major universities usually provide this type of access to their students and some employees). He told me that all I needed to do was plug my laptop into the UIC network (via a network cable at the lab) and I would automatically get access to everything.
A few weeks ago, I spent a little downtime getting some of the articles I wanted. When you download an article from some of these publishers' sites, a little window will pop up with "recommended readings" based on what you just looked up. I noticed at some point that not a journal article, but a book chapter, popped up as one of those recommended readings. I hadn't thought about book chapters. But as I did think about it, the idea appealed to me. A book chapter would provide a great deal of background, which is what I am looking for right now. So I wondered, "Could I get the whole book?" The answer: "Yes!" Then my follow-up question: "Are there more available books on my subject?" The answer, again: "Yes!"
From home, I used the UIC library's Web site to find available eBooks. Then while a gel was running at lab, I downloaded them, chapter by chapter (you can't download the whole book directly). Back at home, I put them on my iPad.
Granted, I'm not going to read every single page of every single book I downloaded any time soon. But I want to be able to skim them, to decide what I want to read and not read. So getting entire books made sense.
After I had finished getting my books, I was curious - how much would all of these books have cost had I purchased them? Being the absolutely nerdy person I am, I made an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the cost of buying the hardback book directly from the publisher, the eBook from the publisher, the hardback from Amazon.com, and the eBook from Amazon.com (yes, I actually did this). I was amazed - the hardback books from the publishers would have cost more than $2,000 (eBooks and Amazon.com hardback prices were somewhat less). One more reason to be affiliated with a major research institution, and to be grateful for my lab job!
Here is my lovely spreadsheet: