Anna Creech is a university librarian with two cats, glasses, comfortable shoes, and a fear of turning into a stereotype.

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ER&L 2013: Ebooks — Their Use and Acceptance by Undergraduates and Faculty

“Kali, Avatar of the eBook” by Javier Candeira

Speaker: Deborah Lenares, Wellesley College

Libraries have been relatively quietly collecting ebooks for years, but it wasn’t until the Kindle came out that public interest in ebooks was aroused. Users exposure and expectations for ebooks has been raised, with notable impact on academic libraries. From 2010-2011, the number of ebooks in academic libraries doubled.

Wellesley is platform agnostic — they look for the best deal with the best content. Locally, they have seen an overall increase in unique titles viewed, a dramatic increase in pages viewed, a modest decrease in pages printed, and a dramatic increase in downloads.

In February 2012, they sent a survey to all of their users, with incentives (iPad, gift cards, etc.) and a platform (Zoomerang) provided by Springer. They had a 57% response rate (likely iPad-influenced), and 71% have used ebooks (51% used ebooks from the Wellesley College Library). If the survey respondent had not used ebooks, they were skipped to the end of the survey, because they were only interested in data from those who have used ebooks.

A high percent of the non-library ebooks were from free sources like Google Books, Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, etc. Most of the respondents ranked search within the text and offline reading or download to device among the most important functionality aspects, even higher than printing.

Most of the faculty respondents found ebooks to be an acceptable option, but prefer to use print. Fewer students found ebooks an acceptable option, and preferred print more than faculty. There is a reason that will be aparent later in the talk.

The sciences preferred ebooks more than other areas, and found them generally more acceptable than other areas, but the difference is slight. Nearly all faculty who used ebooks would continue to, ranging from preferring them to reluctant acceptance.

Whether they love or hate ebooks, most users skimmed/search and read a small number of consecutive pages or a full chapter. However, ebooks haters almost never read an entire book, and most of the others infrequently did so. Nearly everyone read ebooks on a computer/laptop. Ebook lovers used devices, and ebook haters were more likely to have printed it out. Most would prefer to not use their computer/laptop, and the ebook lovers would rather use their devices.

Faculty are more likely to own or plan to purchase a device than students, which may be why faculty find ebooks more acceptable than students. Maybe providing devices to them would be helpful?

For further research:

  • How does the robustness of ebook collections effect use and attitudes?
  • Is there a correlation between tablet/device use and attitudes?
  • Are attitudes toward shared ebooks (library) different from attitudes toward personal ebooks?

The full text of the white paper is available from Springer.