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E-Books in the Sciences: If We Buy It Will They Use It?

Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship Volume 59, ISSN 1092-1206


York University, Toronto, Canada has been acquiring e-books from different publishers and content providers. At present our University subscribes to electronic content from NetLibrary, ebrary, EBL, Oxford Scholarship Online, Oxford Reference Online, MyiLibrary, Safari, Springer, Oxford University Press, Knovel, Books24x7, Synthesis Engineering E-books, Books@Ovid, and some other publishers that are available through ebrary platform. As libraries divert substantial amounts of their budgets for e-books, librarians need to evaluate if and how these e-books are being used in the academic environment. Although complete figures for the growth of the market in Canada are not currently available, an analysis of electronic monograph titles held and purchased by The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) libraries demonstrates both the growing importance of e-books to CARL libraries and also the importance of libraries to the e-book market. Expenditures on electronic monographs have grown from $1,127,372 in 1999-00 to $6,048,491 in 2006-07--a staggering 436.5% increase. In the past year alone, CARL libraries have acquired 2,890,369 electronic monograph items. Electronic monographs currently represent approximately 13% of total monograph titles held by CARL libraries, and that number is expected to continue to grow over the next several years (Owen et al. 2008). The author conducted an online e-book survey in Fall 2008 to gather responses from science graduate students and faculty on questions related to findability and accessibility of e-books, features desired in e-books and the best avenues for promotion of e-books. The survey consisted of two set of questions; the first part was to gather information on whether the respondent had used e-books (awareness). The survey included a list of e-book publishers/content providers and participants were asked to indicate if they were aware of any of them. The second part consisted of questions that would elicit responses about features used or preferred in an e-book platform. There were a total of 94 completed responses comprising of 58 graduate students (survey participation rate 8.92%) and 36 faculty members (14.4% participation) from different departments in pure and applied sciences. Findings included: A majority of graduate students surveyed were aware of e-books and 76% had used them; only 44.5% of faculty members used e-books with half of those surveyed being aware of York University's e-book subscriptions; the Library catalogue remains the most popular way to find e-books; faculty members don't spend much time reading e-books on the screen, however the results for graduate students were markedly different; and e-books that have been catalogued and are findable through the library catalogue had the highest usage statistics. In addition, it was found that some of the very important features for faculty members and graduate students were off-campus access to e-books, ability for multiple users to read the book at the same time, 24/7 access, capability to print and download sections or chapters on their laptops, and capability to search by series. (Contains 6 tables and 2 figures.)


Nariani, R. (2009). E-Books in the Sciences: If We Buy It Will They Use It?. Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, 59,. Retrieved July 16, 2019 from .

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