Sunday, December 07, 2008

Insights into UK Digital Library Demand

Two interesting library insights into digital books in libraries have been recently published.

Major digital aggregator NetLibrary, has performed a survey involving around 300 UK libraries on the acquisition of eBooks by academic and public libraries.

Today the UK public library sector is just starting to grapple with ebooks and not unsurprisingly, some 85% indicated that they wanted to develop fiction eBook collections. This again raises the issue that we continue to ignore, on how these will compete against retail, when one is effectively free the rent and the other is a purchase only model. The music standardization on the open MP3 format and the wide availability of devices is further fueling library interest in the development of their eAudiobook collections. Leaving the commercial issues aside, we still have a stated principle from many publishers to adopt MP3, but for a host of reasons, a continuation with DRM restricted material, a near monopoly position with Audible and a market clearly not rising to its full potential. Some 65% of public libraries responded positively to developing their collections.

Of the academic libraries who responded to the survey, half indicated that their use of eBooks was to support their core reading lists in various subject areas – the main ones being Business / Management (13%), Medicine / Health (9%) Education (6%) and Engineering (5%). At a recent regional JISC event on ‘Exploring e-books’ for library, information professionals and technical experts there were was a sharing of experience and research with a view to maximising the benefits of e-books for users and for institutions. The advantages of ebooks were found to be: online access, search ability, cost savings, portability, convenience, eco-friendly, storage, easy to navigate, multiple users, easy to locate . The top ten drivers for a national ebooks project to ensure all had equal access to collections were: Interoperability and better technology , student expectations, publisher buy-in, updated teaching styles, standard policy and adoption, author buy-in, budgets, space, new business models, open access.

By themselves these insights tell us little we probably didn’t know but what they are clearly intimating is that there is a gathering pace of enlightenment within all libraries both intuitional and public to digital content, its potent and importantly their thirst to get it.

Click here to listen to the podcast of the JISC event.

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