E-Books in the Sciences: If We Buy It Will They Use It?

This article, E-Books in the Sciences: If We Buy It Will They Use It?, appeared a while ago in Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship and I thought it was interesting.  The librarians at York University, Toronto, Canada conducted a survey evaluate whether their e-books were being used and how.

What I found interesting was despite the fact that 52% of the faculty are aware of York’s ebook packages and 44% have used ebooks, only 20% of those responding faculty recommend or actively encourage their students to use e-book materials. 

Only 20%?! Why so low?  While faculty knew ebooks existed and used them, there was still a lot of confusion and miscommunication about access, copyright, downloading and subject availability.

What isn’t surprising is that most people don’t read the book straight through.  Only 3.4%  of the graduate students responders read the whole book and NONEof the faculty responders read a whole ebook.

It appears that people read ebooks for quick reference.  Most of the graduate students and faculty read less than one chapter or only browsed through the book.  Only 12.% graduate students and 13.9 faculty read a whole chapter. 

These are just two of the many things that I found interesting in this article.  There is a clear disconnect between what patrons perceive about their ebook library holdings (access, copyright, usage, etc.) and patrons have are not reading academic ebooks like people are reading popular ebook titles.  I think that is a revelation to some librarians and many publishers.  However, if you think about it….Since when has anybody read a textbook like a popular literature book?  Just because it is online doesn’t mean the content lends itself to the whole book reading or even reading an entire chapter online. 

Librarians and publishers should read through this article and perhaps a few others like  The strange case of academic libraries and e-books nobody reads and the study by JISC national ebooks observatory project and perhaps do a survey of their own to see how their users are reading their ebooks.

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