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.

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