Online Journals and Books: Users and Librarians

Yesterday two interesting articles crossed my path, one was from Gobbledygook on and the other was from Highwire Press. 

How do researchers use online journals?was a post on Gobbledygook from Martin Fenner about a presentation by Ian Rowlands on how researchers find and use electronic journals (Ian’s research is available as podcast and PDF). 

Some of the take home thoughts are:

  • One third of Oxford Journals and 25% of ScienceDirect journals were accessed outside of business hours (9am-5pm)
  • Approximately 40% of journals sessions originate from Google
  • Finding and using ejournals varies according to discipline
  • “Historians search for and use e-journals in ways very different from their scientific and social science colleagues.  Compared, for instance, with life scientists, historians are more likely to access e-journals via Google, and to use search tools, especially menus, once they are inside the publisher’s platform.”  They also report that Google Scholar gets little use (4%) and that most of the Google searching is with regular Google.
  • “The most successful research institutions tend to use gateways more often and this is reflected in much shorter sessions on the publisher’s platform.”  Gateways would be considered PubMed not Google. 

Important for librarians is to know that there is a lot of “off hours” research being done.  Therefore it is crucial to have off campus access to your library resources.

So now that we have a brief snapshot of how patrons use electronic journals, lets look at Highwire Press 2009 Librarian eBook Survey.  The survey, conducted September-October 2009,  looks at how librarians find a purchase ebooks.

Some take home thoughts on this survey are:

  • Ebooks only account for 11% or less of the acquisition budget for many libraries. 
  • Publishers, vendors and inclusion in content packages were the most significant method source for librarians finding ebook information.
  • Several libraries “emphasized the importance of consortia discovery and acquisition of ebooks.  Consortia are important in acquisition of ejournals and clearly librarians want to extend this familiar model to the less familiar format of ebooks.”
  • PDF is the preferred format for ebooks.  Only 3% of the librarians indicated that “users prefer ebooks optimized for dedicated ebook devices or other mobile devices.” 
  • It seems that librarians feel that DRM restrictions and poor site design are the two biggest factors hindering the use of ebooks.
  • Finally, like almost everything in libraries, usage drives purchasing decisions.  Unfortunately the survey did not address whether usage of previous print version drives purchasing, usage statistics by subject or publisher, or by usage statistics of specific title held online.  (The survey does acknowledge this is an area of the survey that would need further questions to address how usage drives purchasing.)

I recommend looking the full report from both Ian Rowlands and Highwire.  They offer a snapshot of what is happening in electronic resources.  It is helpful to both librarians and publishers.  Both groups need to know how users are accessing and using the material.  Publishers need to understand why librarians are or aren’t buying their ebooks.  Publishers and librarians also need to know how library users are finding and accessing their articles.