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August 16, 2010

e-Book survey - summary of responses now available

A summary of the responses to our recent survey of current and future institutional attitudes to e-books is now available. For those of you who don't want to read the whole thing (25 pages or so), the executive summary is only two sides of A4. And for those of you who don't want to read that, here's my even briefer thoughts: 

  • The drivers for adopting e-books do not currently seem to be coming from faculty, with 2/3 of respondents suggesting that none or less than 10% of course modules at their institution currently recommend or mandate the use of e-books.
  • That said, uptake across subject areas is variable, with business and management, social sciences and health and medicine apparently making more use of e-books than other disciplines.
  • Distance learners are generally seen as an important user group for e-books. In addition, 'demand from students', shelf space', 'cost savings', 'convenience of access', 'accessibility' and 'coping with peaks in demand' were all given as drivers.
  • A significant growth in the use of e-books is predicted over the next two years, with 77% of respondents thinking that use of e-books double or more than double.
  • However, budgets are not predicted to rise in line with this (not surprisingly). Coupled with the lack of a separate 'e-book budget', a growth in spending on e-books seems likely to impact on budget for other resources (particularly print books).
  • In terms of suppliers, Coutts and Dawsonera are currently the most widely used.

I don't really know what to make of this. My suspicion is that we are at a point in the hype curve around e-books that has tended to push librarians (most of the respondents to this survey were librarians) into thinking, "we ought to be doing something here and we probably should expect a sharp rise in uptake" even though general demand from the user community (i.e. students and teaching staff) remains quite low to date. Perhaps that is unfair?

Mind you... I like books - you know, the old-fashioned paper ones.


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Hi Andy,

I don't think this is unfair. There's still a lot of uncertainty about how the ebook space will develop, for libraries and everyone really. Some of this is compounded by the different suppliers with different modes of access and different terms. I've done a very small amount of analysis of e-books suppliers with regards the use of eReaders and/or an iPad. Not a single one supports epub or mobi. Quite a few provide PDFs with terms that allow a chapter to be downloaded for offline reading. One of our major suppliers, though, allows no downloading whatsoever and another uses DRM, which means you have to use Adobe Reader and accept that the owners can track what you are doing with the PDF. Perhaps offline viewing isn't that important? I'm not sure, but I'd like libraries to be in a situation where they can confidently provide e-resources that can be downloaded and then read on any one of various devices (mobile phone, ereader, ipad, laptop ... ).

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