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.

ER&L 2013: E or P — A Comparative Analysis of Electronic and Print Book Usage

“Book & Phone Book” by Lynn Gardner

Speakers: Michael Levine-Clark & Christopher C. Brown, University of Denver

If someone checks out a physical book, do you know if they really read it? If someone accesses an ebook, do you know if they really read it? If a faculty member has a print book checked out for a year, is it more valuable to them than an ebook they access several times?

Sometimes, the title format in the catalog record can influence what is found and used. Vendor records can sometimes have series names in the beginning of the title, which the cataloger would not do with print.

ISBNs don’t match/merge easily. His solution was to remove the check digit and the prefix, and match on the “ISBN 9”. This works, mostly, but another solution was needed. Ended up having to do a lot of matching to pull together useful comparison of circulation and download data to compare e versus p use.

They found that when both formats were available, a little over half of the print books were used, and less than half of the ebooks were used. Of the titles used in both formats, there was higher use all around. The lowest level of use came from ebooks where the print was not checked out at all.

Use of electronic books may lead to print, but use of print doesn’t seem to lead to electronic. It may be that if dual format is higher it may be that good books get used no matter what format they are in. It may also be that e-discovery drives p-use.

Future considerations: the role of discovery and the role of ILL in a demand for print when electronic is available.

my love/hate relationship with reading books

ALA Read mini-poster
“ALA Read mini-poster” by me

This year I participated in the “set your own challenge” book reading thinger on Goodreads. Initially, I set mine at 25, as a little stretch goal from my average of 19 books per year over the past four years. But, I was doing so well in the early part of the year that I increased it to 30. The final total was 27, but I’m part-way through several books that I just didn’t have time to finish as the clocked ticked down to the end of the year.

What worked well for me this time: audiobooks. I read more of them than paper books this year, and it forced me to expand to a variety of topics and styles I would not have patience for in print.

What failed me this time: getting hung up on a book I felt obligated to finish, but did not excite me to continue on it, so I kept avoiding it. To be fair, part of what turned me off was on disc two, I accidentally set my car’s CD player to shuffle. This is great for adding some variety to music listening, but it made for confusing and abrupt transitions from one topic/focus to another.

I read a lot of non-fiction, because that works better in audio format for me, and I read more audio than printed (either in paper or electronic) books. For 2013, I’d like to read more fiction, which means reading more in print. Which means making time for my “must read the whole book cover to cover” method of reading fiction.

audiobook: 20
print book: 7
ebook: 0

fiction: 5
non-fiction: 22

books read in 2012



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Charleston 2012: Curating a New World of Publishing

Looking through spy glass by Arild Nybø
“Looking through spy glass” by Arild Nybø

Hypothesis: Rapid publishing output and a wide disparity of publishing sources and formats has made finding the right content at the right time harder for librarians.

Speaker: Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords

Old model of publishing was based on scarcity, with publishers as mediators for everything. Publishers aren’t in the business of publishing books, they are in the business of selling books, so they really focus more on what books they think readers want to read. Ebook self publishing overcomes many of the limitations of traditional publishing.

Users want flexibility. Authors want readers. Libraries want books accessible to anyone, and they deliver readership.

The tools for self publishing are now free and available to anyone around the world. The printing press is now in the cloud. Smashwords will release about 100,000 new books in 2012, and they are hitting best seller lists at major retailers and the New York Times.

How do you curate this flood? Get involved at the beginning. Libraries need to also promote a culture of authorship. Connect local writers with local readers. Give users the option to publish to the library. Emulate the best practices of the major retailers. Readers are the new curators, not publishers.

Smashwords Library Direct is a new service they are offering.

Speaker: Eric Hellman, from Unglue.it

[Missed the first part as I sought a more comfortable seat.]

They look for zero margin distribution solutions by connecting publishers and libraries. They do it by running crowd-funded pledge drive for every book offer, much like Kickstarter. They’ve been around since May 2012.

For example, Oral Literature in Africa was published by Oxford UP in 1970, and it’s now out of print with the rights reverted to the author. The rights holder set a target amount needed to make the ebook available free to anyone. The successful book is published with a Creative Commons license and made available to anyone via archive.org.

Unglue.it verifies that the rights holder really has the rights and that they can create an ebook. The rights holder retains copyright, and the ebook format is neutral. Books are distributed globally, and distribution rights are not restricted to anyone. No DRM is allowed, so the library ebook vendors are having trouble adopting these books.

This is going to take a lot of work to make it happen, if we just sit and watch it won’t. Get involved.

Speaker: Rush Miller, library director at University of Pittsburgh

Why would a library want to become a publisher? It incentivizes the open access model. It provides services that scholars need and value. It builds collaborations with partners around the world. It improves efficiencies and encourages innovation in scholarly communications.

Began by collaborating with the university press, but it focuses more on books and monographs than journals. The library manages several self-archiving repositories, and they got into journal publishing because the OJS platform looked like something they could handle.

They targeted diminishing circulation journals that the university was already invested in (authors, researchers, etc.) and helped them get online to increase their circulation. They did not charge the editors/publishers of the journals to do it, and encouraged them to move to open access.

ebooks, libraries, and the discount rate

Evolution of Readers
Creative Commons License John Blyberg via Compfight

The other day I was listening to a Planet Money podcast episode, and they were talking about a new-to-me financial term: the discount rate. As they described it, this is “the rate you use to size up future costs.”

This morning I read a blog/essay by cartoonist Dave Kellett (who draws the nerdy-fun comic Sheldon) which argued that ebooks in libraries would be the death of the traditional publishing industry. As he put it, “The internet has shown, again and again, that the average consumer always tends toward the cheaper, faster solution. And all things being equal between delivery systems, there’s no debate which one is more advantageous for the individual: The borrowed copy.”

Not long after reading this essay, I attended a training session by one of our ebook vendors, during which at one point they mentioned that the cost for MUPO books (multiple simultaneous user access; essentially a site-license) as being only 150% of list price, which in their words is a good deal. I held my breath for a moment, as I knew the cost of MUPO had been contentious in internal discussions in the recent past. However, the moment passed without comment.

All of these bits and pieces began churning in my mind until finally I reached a rather shocking to me conclusion: 150% of list price for unlimited simultaneous user access is an amazing deal, particularly now that these ebooks are becoming more functional for the users.

Think about it — for the cost of half of a second copy, any number of our users can view, download, print, copy, and even read the same book at the same time. In the print world, at best you might get four people reading the same copy a book at the same time if you could smoosh together close enough and the font size wasn’t too small. Or, you’d buy multiple copies for class reading assignments that would then end up being discarded when the curriculum changed.

How could I go from thinking that ebooks shouldn’t cost more than print to thinking that MUPO pricing is a good deal? Well, my discount rate changed. When I thought about it from the perspective of copies saved rather than prices increased, it made the cost difference seem less heinous.