Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ebrary's Ebook Survey

Ebrary has released an ebook survey conducted earlier this year. Almost 600 librarians responded, although the vast majority of them are academic librarians. Few public or special librarians are represented.

The most surprising news was that most students & faculty find ebooks through the library catalog or the library website--not Google or other search engines. But I'd like a clarification on this particular question, because it was worded this way: "How do patrons find ebooks?" Librarians answered the survey, not patrons, so how do the librarians know the answer? If I were a student, how would my university know how I was finding ebooks?

The librarian who was asked to comment within the survey noted:
Until e-book reading devices are preferred to printed books and are commonly available, the e-book collection will not be seen as preferable when the intent is to read an entire work.
Ebooks are mostly used for research, not for pleasure; most titles purchased are nonfiction. They are not intended to be read from cover to cover, and are used differently if the user is acting as a researcher or as a leisure reader buying the latest bestseller. The ebook market for research books is much more well-developed than the leisure market because it is supported by the academic community. One must wonder if public library support is necessary for the leisure ebook market to take off, as well as the introduction of low-cost dedicated readers that would be as desirable for reading as ipods are for listening to music.

A strong majority of librarians preferred not to duplicate the purchase of print and electronic titles. I wouldn't prefer to do that either, but it depends on your users, and what they want, and where they are, and how they use the books.

A majority of the respondents are "somewhat to very concerned" about the implications of interlibrary loan and ebooks. My view on ILL is that those transactions will continue to decrease as more and more ebooks are available to the user--either through vendors like ebrary and NetLibrary, or by way of free ebooks on sites like Google Book Search or Live Search Books. ILL will eventually become a last-resort service for finding those few scarce items that have never been digitized.

I keep hearing so many people who still seem skeptical that ebooks are the wave of the future. But they represent the only practical way libraries can continue to satisfy the information needs of their users. In many ways they easily improve upon traditional library models--ILL, physical books available only to those who are able and willing to go to the library, etc. It's not a steep upward curve at this time, but it will be, eventually.

No comments: