E-Books: Where Do We Go From Here?

E-books have become widely accepted, but many users will not be satisfied for long with static e-books that simply recreate the print book experience online.  Print reference is still selling, but new technologies are having a significant influence on e-books.  Rolf Janke, Vice President and Publisher for Sage Reference, a division of SAGE Publications, said that librarians have a love-hate relationship with e-books.  Although students expect all the features, librarians are nervous about the associated costs.

Reference used to mean print, static, and black and white content.  Today it is online (meaning e-books), on a platform, and e-book aggregators are beginning to appear.  There are some dynamic e-books, but many products are still static.  Some e-books have color.  Simultaneous usages has completely transformed the world.  Interactivity exists, but it generally consists of videos and podcasts, which is not defined as “animated”.  And the next generation will be heavily mobile.

Reference is going digital.  The basic tools provide a starting point, with interactive features add value to the user experience.  Adding interactivity is desired, but it involves costs.  Can publishers assume we will have a ROI?

A survey of librarians (photos) revealed some surprising opinions on what is valuable in reference services:  desirable features included cross-searching all content on a single platform, “Did you mean?” for spelling corrections, citation builders, and videos.  Features not seen as valuable were saving searches, editing content, linking content to social networks, and animation.  Video is the most prominently used technology in reference sources. It must be built into an article to create value, and it must provide transcripts.  SAGE released its first multimedia product in January and quickly observed that articles with video have been used more than any others in the entire SAGE collection.

Here is SAGE’s view of the e-book market.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor


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