Value of E-Book Collections Purchased from a Large Publisher


Jennifer Bazelely and Aaron Shrimplin

Aaron Shrimplin and Jennifer Bazeley from Miami University Libraries (the Miami in Ohio, not the one in Florida) have evaluated their relationship with e-books, conducting a survey of 735 users’ attitudes toward e-books. Respondents fell into 4 classes:

  • Book lovers have an inherent affinity for printed books.
  • Technophiles are interested in the possibilities of new technology for reading books.
  • Pragmatists see the pros and cons of both print and electronic forms of books.
  • Printers prefer print books and have specific difficulties with the usability  or readability of e-books.

The library is planning on ramping up their e-book collections, but there are many issues and more questions than answers.  So a preliminary study focused on the 2008 Springer e-book collection and its use over a 3 year period was conducted.

The Springer collection is divided into 12 subject collections.  The e-books have no DRM, and the owner has perpetual access–an attractive consideration.   E-books and journals are on the same site and are searchable together.  At Miami, the collection can be accessed through the OhioLINK electronic book center (EBC) or directly through Springer’s site.  The study compiled usage of 2,529 e-books published from 2008-2010 used on both platforms.  Only 23% of the titles had been used, and if this trend continues 54% of Miami’s e-books will be unused after 6 years.  Usage followed the well known 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle):  20% of used titles accounted for 80% of the downloads.  The Long Tail effect was also observed: of the infrequently used titles, about half had 3 uses or less.  A few high-use titles dominate the statistics;  the most used title had 28% of the total uses over 3 years.  Professional books, monographs, and especially textbooks accounted for the most usage.  Computer science was the most heavily used subject area.  Past usage predicted future usage; trends observed in 2008 continued in 2009 and 2010.

Platform matters:  e-books that are cross-searchable with journals is appealing, especially for pragmatists and technophiles.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

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