Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Lindsey Schell’s chapter on e-books in academic libraries in No Shelf Required discusses many of the challenges and issues that arise when a library decides to allocate a portion of their collection space and financial budget to e-books. Despite the licensing headaches, e-book format restrictions, ILL ineligibility, strict Digital Rights Management enforcement, and occasional patron resistance, it’s undeniable that e-books are here to stay, and it is up to university librarians to overcome these challenges and successfully incorporate e-resources into our existing and often long developed academic collections.

Schell’s case studies were interesting examples of the trial and error technique many university libraries are implementing to come to grips with the e-book situation. The University of Texas at Austin and Penn State have each tried to integrate e-books into academic library settings by targeting specific types of books or specific users. For example, one of the groups Penn State targeted for their Sony Reader experiment was Honors English students. Schell indicates that literature classes are a popular choice of a potential user base for e-resources since “assignments may focus on close reading” and students could benefit from “keyword and proximity searches for textual analysis” (p. 80). In general, Penn State’s study found that many students appreciated the e-reader’s capabilities, despite complaints of battery issues, slow refresh times, and a lack of highlighting and annotating features.

I don't own an e-reader, though I've definitely benefited from using e-books for research--it's undeniably faster to simply click on a link and have the whole book at your fingertips, than to have to go to the library and crawl the stacks to find one title you think might be useful (I won't go into the downside of limited digital browsing options here). But I still have some doubts when it comes to the use of e-books for pleasure reading. Recently I have read a couple of e-books "for fun" and while admittedly they were PDFs read on my computer, I didn't really find I was inspired to join the e-reader movement.

After reading a print version of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games (I heard a lot about it over Christmas break and decided it was time I went ahead and read it) I was having trouble finding the sequels in print at the local libraries and so opted for e-versions. Then I read the graphic novel/manga series Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa. While both series had great stories, interesting characters, and were quite enjoyable to read, the only extra thing I got from reading them in e-book format was a persistent eye twitch. Yes, easy access to the e-books was convenient, but all in all, I think I'd rather have read them in print.

That said, e-books are still very new. Right now there may not be a lot of added benefit from choosing an e-version over print, but who knows what innovations and improvements are right around the corner? It seems like the future of e-books will likely hold even more challenges and issues than the ones Schell outlines in her chapter, but as the technology continues to develop, the opportunities e-books create are sure to keep growing as well.

Schell, Lindsey. (2011). Chapter Five: The Academic Library E-book. In Polanka, S. (Ed.), No Shelf
. Chicago: American Library Association.

No comments:

Post a Comment