Monday, June 30, 2008

BPN 1144 E-books change academic life

In Spring 2008, ebrary collaborated with more than 150 college and university librarians throughout the world to develop an informal survey to better understand students’ usage, needs, and perceptions with regard to e-books.

Colleges and university libraries of all types, worldwide, were encouraged to invite their students to participate in the survey. ebrary did not promote the survey directly to students. The survey was promoted primarily through ebrary’s newsletter distribution list, which includes more than 12,000 college and university librarians, representing approximately 2,100 individual institutions. Approximately half of these institutions are located in North America, the other half in the rest of the world. A total of 6,492 students completed the survey, representing nearly 400 individual institutions, from approximately 75 countries.

Librarians were also invited to participate in a “cloned” student survey to see how their responses differ from those of students. A copy of the “cloned” report, will be available later this summer. This survey is not about e-readers, but about electronic books, ranging from Word, PDF to Mobypocket format.

From the librarians survey it was known that 63 per cent have over 1000 e-books and 37 per cent has less than 1000 e-books.

The student e-book survey was completed by a total of 6,492 students, representing nearly 400 individual institutions, from approximately 75 countries. It sounds impressive, but when you look in detail the survey can hardly be called represetative. Respondents came from the US (2143) and Italy (2707) and 73 other countries with participants ranging from 1 to 529. From my own home country only 2 prticipants have been registered. When you look at the primary subject/major of study, the lit is dominated by engineering (1983 rspondents). On the far end of the list are mortuary science, oceonography and criminal studies each with 1 respondent. Only 23 students languages and literature partook in the survey.

Half of the respondents (3122) fall off from the start, when they are asked how often they use e-books provided by the library. They never use them. Ome 2700 respondents say that their library does not have e-book; or they do not know about it. So only some 3200 students answered the rest of survey.

Remarkabl of the rest is that 2517 rate e-books assecond resource for research and class assignments. And when asked about th trustworthiness (accuracy and reliability) of the resources, e-books (279) almost equals print books (2845). Resources as Wikipedia, wikis and blogs as well as social web applications score very low in trustworthiness. When asked for the option of using the e-book or a print book, more than 2500 respondents indicate sometimes (974), often (868) and very often (698).

Th respondents could indicate whether 19 statements were true for e-books, print books or both. No less than 1905 respondents listed environmental friendliness of e-book the highest; as said before in a posting, this is utter nonsense. Any time, any where access is a fine second followedby easy to search and find information. Interesting for any e-book producer and e-reader manufacturer are the 19 features list as very important to e-books (see illustration).

Asked on what would make e-books usage more suitable for use in thei area of study, the students answered: more titles in my subject area (2465), less restrictions on printing (2073) and copying and more current titles (1902). Only 1150 students demanded better e-readers.

In the concluding summary of the surveyAllan W. McKiel Ph.D, dean of librray and media services of Western Oregon University draws some intersting conclusions on the change in scientific behaviour. Books, print or electronic, are holding their own as a preferred resource. E-books were in second place as a resource used for research/class assignments with 78 per cent of the students selecting them. Print books followed closely at 77 per cent (2478/3208). It is noteworthy that e-books are just behind Google as an important format for students. It is a hint of evidence suggesting that the format may endure in the context of the Internet. In ebrary’s 2007 Global Faculty E-book Survey, e-books were the sixth element (53 per cent) in the list of the electronic resources that faculty indicated they used for research and course preparation. Seventy-nine percent (658/829) of the faculty reported that print books were preferable for reading the entire work.

Student and faculty usage diverged slightly over the use of e-journals. They placed second in the faculty survey with 86 per cent of the faculty selecting them. Only 65 per cent of the students indicated that they used them for research/class assignments. Faculties are moving to the Internet but the traditional format of the journal organized in the context of the Internet appears to have a stronger utility for them than students.

Other inferences appeared in the student data. Wikipedia scored just behind Google as a tool of choice for assignments. E-reference resources like online dictionaries, encyclopedias, and maps are firmly established tools. Textbooks are fading as a central course resource. Both students and faculty skew toward a preference for working online. And both students and faculty view instruction in information literacy as important. Fifty-six percent of students selected very important while 85 per cent of the faculty indicated that it was very important.

From the student survey it is clear that something is changing in scientific behaviour. The librarian survey is most likely more conservative, but will reflect the immediate tendencies.

Blog Posting Number: 1144

Tags: e-books, e-readers

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