I’m sure many of you will have read this POV from the writer of eReport-Digital Publishing Downunder. “Should libraries have e-books? I’m not sure they should” writes Martin Taylor. Ebooks he says, threaten the book selling and publishing industry. As ebooks are just a click away and be lent multiple times :
how can this be reconciled with the need for a commercial industry of publishers, booksellers and others who will have much more to fear from libraries when technology brings the local library to every home and mobile phone.
His article makes for disturbing reading and I don’t wish to address all the points he raises since I don’t feel qualified to do so. What I would like to address is the value of ebooks.
Reading a book on screen is not everybodya cup of tea. When ebooks first came on the scene I admit I was sceptical that I’d ever wish to give up the cosy codex with cocoa scenario. But I’ve changed my mind. Here is why.
The very fact that ebooks can be accessed online is a huge convenience for learners. Print textbooks books are bulky, heavy and must be accessed through contents pages and indices – assuming the student realises they can use these. (Believe me, I come across those who don’t). They are hideously expensive and their relentless production of new editions mean it’s always your copy that you can’t sell second hand the following year. Not to mention when the course readings change – as they do.
Imagine an Auckland based content proposition in which the 50,000 students at Auckland University and AUT were offered their course work, plus their current digital library membership though a Kindle DX … plus a student mobile phone offer from the likes of Vodafone, Telecom , or here in New Zealand the new 2degrees entrant? Imagine that scaled across the whole tertiary sector in New Zealand.
Imagine indeed. Imagine how that might impact academic libraries. (I think we’d be okay though.)
I believe ebook collections add a depth to a student’s options.
- The ability to directly search within a book for your topic is much quicker than using TOC’s and indices.
- Accessing the book from your computer at home in the middle of the night when the library isn’t open is also a valid use for the lackadaisical student. (Don’t tell me you never pulled an all-nighter because I won’t believe you!)
- I would think that most tertiary assignments are written in Word (or similar) these days, so even dropping in a quote using the dreaded cut-and-paste is more convenient than laboriously copying it onto your paper.
- You don’t have to wait for the book to come back via hold or recall – it’s there all the time (depending on the licensing use agreements). I can tell you that I’ve had many a relieved student who has benefited from this one.
Ebooks collections add a depth to the library’s collection without adding problems like finding space to put them, re-shelving them, retrieving them or replacing them when they are lost, stolen or strayed. Of course, there are other issues such as providing bandwidth and all those techie things.
Elearners find that ebooks fit seamlessly into their workflow.
What is this about H1N1?
If you had to stay home in quarantine then ebooks would surely be an answer to a prayer for those students who had to study at the same time. Combined with full text databases, elearning course management systems (e.g Blackboard and Moodle), and any suite of ecommunication tools (email, Skype etc) an ebook can stand proud as a convenient solution.
And ebooks for leisure reading? Well, that is a topic for another post.