The Academic User and the Ebook Experience

Char Booth (one of the presenters at the upcoming webinar on library analytics, which we’ll be participating in – please join us!) has a very good article at LibraryJournal.com this week: “A Rising Tide: The Academic User and the Ebook Experience.”

Many public libraries are beginning to offer ebooks that are downloadable to the patron’s ereader (Kindle, Nook, etc.) and, as Stephen Abram notes in a blog post, ebook checkouts increased by 200% in 2010. But, because of how our ebooks are provided and licensed, academic libraries have not been as quick to offer similar services. But user expectations are changing; those of us who work at reference desks or respond to emails from patrons are starting to get questions like “I got a Nook for Christmas – how can I download ebooks from your library?”

Booth notes:

Delivery platform aside, I find that most digital monographs suffer from the equivalent of a serious personality disorder (e.g., poor communication, lack of self-awareness, negative self-image, inaccessibility, inconsistency, and delusions of grandeur). They tend to be too disparate, DRM-protected, and reminiscent of e-journal content to be accessed or read gracefully, making them a hard sell. At my own institution, I observe patrons struggle to access and understand library-digitized and publisher provided ebooks in a research context. Their shared dissatisfaction is exposed by common questions: How can I tell this is an ebook? Why can’t I print or read offline? How do I turn on the accessibility features? Why won’t the link I copied last week work now? Can I get this on my Kindle?

She goes on to discuss HathiTrust specifically, noting that it “highlights the value-added ebook proposition offered by libraries: service orientation and craft-level production, the two things most difficult to replicate in the large-scale digitext economy.”

Check out the article, and let us know what you think. Do you have an ereader? Have you had questions from students or faculty about ebooks? (If so – how have you responded to them?) Do you think their expectations are changing? What suggestions would you have for the Libraries as we move forward into these newish technologies? Please feel free to leave comments on this post!