Monday, March 19, 2012

The E-Book Story, Part 3: What's next for e-books?

100,000 e-books is a decent start, but the Gardner-Harvey Library, Miami University Libraries, and OhioLINK are not stopping there.  Before I discuss some of our ongoing plans and future endeavors to add more e-books, let's talk a little about why we might add more e-books.

For an individual library, e-books are appealing in much the same way that full-text periodical articles are:  they are convenient for our patrons.  They can be used on- or off-campus (just like print books), but they do not require going to the library to check them out.  They are available 24/7, whether the library is open or not.  Depending on the collection, they may be able to be used by multiple people at one time, which multiplies their usefulness.  E-books lack physical presence, which makes them easier to haul around and far easier to shelve.  They can also be easily linked in Niihka for class use.

Of course, there are downsides to e-books.  People need to have some sort of device to view them on, and the cost of the device and Internet access may be prohibitive.  They lack the appeal for some of holding a book and turning pages.  Some e-books may lack the diagrams or illustrations of the same book in print, and for others the quality of those illustrations may suffer.  As noted with the Kindle in the previous post in the series, sharing e-books between devices may be difficult or impossible (and if e-books are bought by one library for its patrons, licensing agreements prohibit sharing them with patrons of other libraries). And some publishers do not offer multiple, simultaneous user access to their titles, meaning that only one person can use the book at a time (like print books).

Nonetheless, e-books are becoming a crucial and growing resource for libraries.  Publishers and libraries are making major moves.  Much like the shift from primarily print-based periodical collections to primarily full-text online periodicals, there are incredible gains in access to be had for little or no increase in investment.  This is true for an individual library, where an e-book and a print book may be available at the same price (though, unfortunately, not always at the same time:  an e-book may only be released some time following the print publication).  It is even more so for groups of libraries buying e-books, where making e-books available to multiple simultaneous users at dozens of libraries saves thousands of dollars that can be spent on other resources (print and DVD as well as digital).  And while libraries often wonder how many of the items we purchase will be used, the early data on e-books is that the majority of e-books we have purchased through OhioLINK are being used (for the last fiscal year, July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, nearly 80% of the e-books in the Electronic Book Center were used).

So what's going on right now, and where is this leading for the libraries you can use?  Miami University Libraries has purchased many e-books that are available in the MU Catalog.  They have also added a number of titles into the catalog that are available for purchase, but are only actually bought if multiple people access the book (this is known as demand-driven acquisitions, or DDA).  The Gardner-Harvey Library has purchased a small number of e-books that are available in the MU Catalog, and we're happy to buy more as they are requested.  And OhioLINK is considering a new statewide plan to add more e-book collections (perhaps some through DDA).  No one is ending the purchase of print books, but we are definitely expanding our e-book collections.

As this moves forward, we would like to suggest five ways you can start experiencing e-books and also how you can provide us with some feedback:

  1. Visit our e-book collections (linked back in the first post in the series) and take a look at some titles.  Browsing or searching through the collections and looking at the content will help you get a feel for these books.
  2. If you have questions about whether reading e-books can really work for you, try out some of our e-books on your mobile device (or give our Kindles a try).  We would be happy to help you make this happen.
  3. Suggest some titles or topic areas for which you'd consider having us buy e-books.  Our job is to match people's needs with sources of information, and there might be an e-book out there for you.  One way to do this is to use our online ordering form, but you may also contact me or a member of the staff
  4. If you're a faculty member, think about whether you could use library e-books as textbooks or sources for class readings.  A license for multiple simultaneous users would be best for a textbook, but even single user access to e-books could work for assigning students to read portions of books. 
  5. Take a moment to fill out an extremely brief and completely anonymous survey on e-books which will help us as we make future plans.

The image above was provided under a Creative Commons Attribution License by d.billy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The E-Book Story, Part 2: How else can I read e-books?

So now you know we have a bunch of e-books and where to find many of them.  You might wonder, though, whether you must be in front of a computer to read them.  Well, the answer to that is yes - by their nature, e-books may only be viewed digitally.  However, there are a lot of mobile devices around today that can serve the role formerly occupied by desktop computers alone.

Any device (smartphone, laptop, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, tablet device, Kindle Fire, etc.) that can browse the Web will let you access and view the e-books we discussed in the last post (as long as you have WiFi available or a 3G or 4G connection).  You just go to the library catalog or the collection in question (or to our library website) and navigate to the book (you'll need to login with your UniqueID and password when off-campus).

But what other ways are available to use these e-books apart from WiFi and more costly connection charges?  Well, one option is to download an e-book to your device.  The problem is, many of our e-books cannot be downloaded (due to the wishes of the publisher in the license agreements).  But one collection is available for download:  EBSCOhost E-books  There are a few requirement for downloading the books:

  • You have to set up a free EBSCOhost account within the e-book database (you'll be prompted to do so when you choose to download a book
  • You have to download Adobe Digital Editions in order to view the titles or download them to your mobile device.  
  • Books are available for a three-day checkout, and you can only have 10 books checked out at one time.
Additional questions about downloading may be answered in the user guide or the FAQ, or by contacting the library.

Another option is to use an e-book reader.  Two things are true:  (1) there are many different e-book readers out there, and (2) we do not yet have a way to have people download e-books from a library collection to their personal e-book readers (other than through the EBSCOhost E-books collection).

However, we have purchased four Amazon Kindles that you can check out from the library for seven days at a time.  We also have five iPads that can read Kindle books through the Kindle app.  More information on these devices is available, along with a list of the Kindle books that we have purchased so far.  We hope you will use them to experience e-book readers and also to enjoy some great books.

Just to note, that group of Kindle books has been built by library patrons who took us up on our offer to purchase a Kindle book when using the Kindle (as well as by library staff testing the devices).  We want you to be able to do the same - Kindle books tend to be quite inexpensive, and they also have many public domain titles available at no charge.  We also envision using the Kindles to retrieve books that are unavailable in OhioLINK libraries (we've had a few opportunities to do that already).  It can really bolster the speed of our interlibrary loan operation.

Kindles do offer some limited abilities to lend titles to other Kindle owners, and the library has also become an Amazon Prime member, which allows us to borrow a single Kindle book each month for no charge.  But this is no way to run a library - you need to have a sizable number of items that you can easily share with people.  We're trying the Kindle experience out, though, and, in my humble opinion, it is a nice reading experience.

So we do have some ways to make e-books a bit more portable.  But what's ahead with e-books?  What plans does the library have for them in the near term?

Be sure to read our next and final entry in the series for some answers.

The image above was provided under a Creative Commons Attribution License by Pen Waggener.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The E-Book Story, Part 1: What are e-books and where can I find some?

E-books:  do you know that we have them?  Do you know the options you have for using them?  Do you know what we're planning to do with e-books in our collection?  If any of these questions interest you, please read on through this series of short posts on e-books.  

E-books are books that are fully available in digital form.  They generally offer the ability to search their texts by keyword, which can make it easy to find concepts throughout the book and jump among them.  They can be read straight through, consulted for key facts, or some combination of the two.  Our expectation with them, as with full-text journal articles, is that they will contain the same illustrations, images, and other content included in the print versions of the books (and this is often true).  They can be read off-campus as well as on, possibly by multiple people at one time.  As we'll see in the series, they appear and are experienced in a variety of ways.

Let's start with the e-books we have.  Miami University and OhioLINK have been buying e-books for several years, both in pre-set collections where we do not choose individual titles and in other arrangements where we do pick the titles.  In some cases, this involves the outright purchase of e-books (such as the reference titles in the Gale Virtual Reference Library).  In other cases, this involves subscribing to services that give us access to e-books (such as Safari Books Online).

There are two primary ways to find our e-books:

  1. Browse a collection of the books, like the two mentioned above, or the largest combined collection that we have, the OhioLINK E-Book Center (which searches several collections along with its own e-books).
  2. Use the Miami University Catalog to search for items on a topic, and then limiting your search using the categories on the left to the Format "Electronic Resource" and the Material Type "Books."  You will also just come across e-books as you search for your topic in the catalog.
How many e-books do we have?  This is an interesting question, and one that will be expanded on as the series continues.  But of the e-book sources mentioned so far, here are some numbers:
  • The OhioLINK E-Book Center has more than 62,000 e-books (on a wide variety of topics, but mainly of a scholarly and reference nature, including works from the publishers ABC-CLIO, Gale, Oxford University Press, Sage, and Springer)
  • Safari Books Online includes 16,020 e-books (mainly on technology, digital media, and business from publishers including O'Reilly, McGraw-Hill, Prentice Hall, Sams, and Que)
  • EBSCOhost E-Books contains more than 15,000 e-books (on a pretty wide variety of topics from many different publishers)
Adding in a number of the smaller collections (like Gale Virtual Reference Library) gives us right around 100,000 e-books.  You may seek them intentionally by looking in their collections, or they may just appear in catalog searches as you come across them.  

But, do you have to read them on your computer?  And what if you want to add more e-books to our collections?  Aren't there any more e-books out than this?  

All of these questions will be answered as the series continues.

The image above was provided by Safari Books Online.