Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Ebrary, the digital content resource platform, have released a 2008 global student eBook survey. The survey was a collaborative one with more than 150 colleges and university librarians and received close to 6500 student respondents from 400 institutions in 75 countries. The break down of students was very interesting as 2707 were from Italy, 2143 from the US, then a drop to 511 from Canada, 529 Hong Kong and a further drop to below 100 and four countries later the UK with only 45 responses. The major course of study was engineering with close on 2000 students, the remaining ones were then spread over a wide range, with only three registering over 400 students; architecture 525, Business 439 and Computing 401.
We are not here to question the skew of either the geographic location of the students or institutions, or the narrow band or subject representation. Some may question whether the responses are representative enough to use as a generic barometer of students, institutions and ebooks in higher academia, but they do raise some interesting issues worthy of further qualification.
Although the majority (57%) of students acknowledged their libraries had ebooks, some 39% did not know whether they did or not. The question of whether reflects the volume of material available is questionable and the survey’s analysis concludes that the figures closely correspond the previous years survey of librarians and the findings that 63% of libraries had over 1,000 and 37% less than 1,000 ebooks. This finding was supported when they were asked about what would make ebook usage more applicable - the highest score was against the requirement for more titles in their subject 81%. This would indicate that even in the academic world publishers have some way to go in digitising all the content.
When asked about their preference for using an electronic or print version the majority not only preferred electronic but also for working online. This is logical at electronic resources in these environments make more sense when aligned with other online resources. The top five reasons for using ebooks were; environment, anytime, anywhere access, searching, sharing and storage. The obvious one to watch is sharing. With the exception of anytime, anywhere access these reasons were the lowest scorers against print books and were joined here by information currency. When looking specifically at ebook features students top four scores were searching, anytime access, off campus access, multi user access and ability to download to a laptop. Students obvious seek portability but when interacting with the information they want laptop functionality. This would indicate that it is unlikely that students would not use the current ebook readers which are one dimensional and in the case of the Sony, read only. Interestingly on the question of making the ebook more applicable, the second highest need (68%), raised the thorny issue of publisher restrictions on printing and copying. In this environment these are clearly seen as barriers to use.
The survey may not be fully representative of the academic market but clearly highlights many interesting issues and is well worth a visit.