Ebooks in your academic library?
Collection Development Considerations
IST-511 Group 14
Teresa Bettis, Lisa Hoff, Cherie Prior, Kathryn Shanahan, Leo Stezano
Libraries are increasingly adding ebooks to their collections. Since the specific needs of the students and faculty that make up the community served by academic libraries vary, the impact of incorporating ebooks within their collection should be considered. First, the difference between print books and ebooks needs to be established. “The obvious definition is that an e-book is an electronic book that can be read digitally on a computer screen, a special e-book reader, a personal digital assistant (PDA), or even a mobile phone. In other words, e-books are consumed on a screen rather than on paper.” (Nelson, 2008) The libraries then need to weigh the benefits and the drawbacks of including ebooks in their collection development.
The benefits of ebooks within collection development
- Ebooks improve patron service and are able to meet patron needs better than print books. Since they are electronic, ebooks offer better searching capabilities, allowing the patron to quickly search full texts using keywords. Patrons today are more accustomed to web services and are becoming increasingly reliant upon the internet. In a survey of undergraduates and postgraduates at several different universities, “Eighty per cent of the students used the web for studying and learning” (Bennett, 2005). Ebooks cater to these users. Ebooks also provide offsite access, allowing distance learning and remote students to use library materials.
- Ebooks are more environmentally friendly than print books. As public awareness about environmental concerns increases, libraries are looking for ways to become greener. “Ebooks eliminate the need to cut down trees for paper and use fuel to produce the books and to transport them” (Poremba, 2008). The library has an obligation to the community to reduce environmental impact.
- Ebooks save physical space since they do not require a place on already crowded shelves. A study done at MIT’s Barton library found that “lack of shelf space for books and journals” was a “serious impediment to study and research” that affected both students and faculty (MIT Faculty Committee, 2002). Adding ebooks allows the collection to continue to grow without using up any additional space.
- Ebooks are available very quickly and provide the most current information through automatic updates. For example, Oxford University Press is a publisher that provides updates for their electronic material. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, a 60 volume set, comes with “regular updates including new biographies, revisions, and features” (Oxford University Press, 2009). Also certain technologies are already outdated by the time the printed book is available for patron use.
- Ebooks can save the library money. Print books suffer from wear and tear due to physical handling which requires repair and eventual replacement. A survey of Academic Research Libraries (ARL) found that 3.2% or 70 million dollars of their combined annual expenditures was spent on preservation of circulating materials (Kenney, 2002). The library will also spend less on shipping since eBooks are delivered electronically.
The disadvantages of ebooks on collection development
- Ebooks are often bundled into large packages to be sold by vendors. Bundling results in a lack of quality since it often includes materials that the library wouldn’t normally collect. It also increases the quantity of titles the library is required to store. When the University of Worcester decided to add ebooks to its collection, it chose a vendor based on the “ability to buy individual titles instead of bundles” (Taylor, 2007).
- Ebooks don’t have any established standards across the market. There are many different user access models, and readers and patrons have a difficult time learning to use the different readers. The libraries also need to learn the different platforms and negotiate the various service terms offered by different vendors. “The greatest single barrier to uptake with regard to software and hardware is the lack of common platform for ebooks” (Bennett, 2005).
- Ebooks exist as digital files which need to be stored and supported. “E-resources are more labor intensive than print. It was thought that reducing or eliminating check-in and binding of print journals would be effort save in an e-journal environment, but troubleshooting access and URL maintenance takes time and effort” (Armstrong, 2009).
- The library is not always guaranteed perpetual access to ebooks that it has bought. “To support open research, libraries will need ‘ownership’ or ‘first sale’ rights that allow perpetual access and fair use. The ability to manipulate an e-book collection easily to eliminate older editions is attractive where currency matters. In other disciplines where long-term research is essential, assurance of perpetual access will be vital” (Snowhill, 2001). The recent example where Amazon deleted George Orwell’s 1984 from customers’ Kindles only intensifies this concern.
- EBooks can cost the library more money. Most ebooks cost as much as or more than the list price for cloth print books. For example, the cloth edition of Advanced Physicochemical Treatment Technologies is listed for $175. The ebook version of this same title is listed for $175, $189, and $262.50 depending on which ebook aggregator supplies it to the library. The library will also have to pay for server and tech support if it wants to host the ebooks itself or pay to have the vendor host them. In 2007, an ARL survey of 118 libraries found that the libraries spent 160 million dollars combined on hardware and software for e-resource support (Association of Research Libraries, 2008).
Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Brian McLaughlin, Acquisitions Supervisor at Syracuse University’s E. S. Bird Library for his valuable insights into some of the difficulties collection developers face with ebooks.
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Association of Research Libraries. (2008). ARL statistics 2007-08. Retrieved from http://www.arl.org/stats/annualsurveys/
Bennett, L., & Landoni, M. (2005). E-books in academic libraries. The Electronic Library, 23(1), 9-16.
Bettis, T., Hoff, L., Prior, C., Shanahan, K., & Stezano, L. (2009). Informal interview with Brian McLaughlin, Academic Acquisitions Supervisor, Syracuse University.
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MIT Faculty Committee on the Library System. (2002). MIT Libraries: meeting critical needs for the 21st century. Retrieved from http://libraries.mit.edu/
Nelson, M. R., (2008). E-books in higher education: nearing the end of the era of hype?, EDUCAUSE Review, 34(2), Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/er
Oxford University Press. (2009). Oxford dictionary of national biography. Retrieved from http://www.oup.com/oxforddnb/info/news/
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Taylor, A. (2007). E-books from MyiLibrary at the University of Worcester: a case study. Program: Electronic Library & Information Systems, 41(3), 217-226.