January 25, 2022

From COHE: "Students’ e-Book Use Has Flatlined Since 2008"

From Wired Campus/The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Students’ use of electronic books has grown little, if at all, over the past three years, according to international surveys of more than 6,500 college students conducted in 2008 and again this year. The finding, from ebrary’s Global Student E-book Survey, surprised audience members when the survey report was previewed this week at the Charleston Conference, a gathering of librarians, publishers, and e-book vendors. Even so, presenters said they felt confident that the number of e-book users would grow more rapidly over the next six months, and that libraries and colleges must be ready to handle the demand.

See Also: Preliminary Results: ebrary Surveys Suggest Students’ Research Needs Unmet (November 1, 2011)

Hat Tip: Up2Date

UPDATE:  ebrary Has Posted a Few Comments About the COHE that story we linked to above. They also shared a copy of the comments with INFOdocket. They include a few additional findings from the survey.

Full text of ebrary’s Comments:

As a member of the ebrary team that conducted this survey, I don’t believe the article’s suggestion that e-book use has flatlined accurately reflects the survey’s findings or our conclusions.  To say use has flatlined suggests e-books are dying or are otherwise crippled and this is simply not the case.  ebrary has actually seen dramatic growth in the use of e-books on our platform between 2008 and 2011.

What is interesting about ebrary’s 2011 student survey, which was about e-books in general, not just ebrary, is that it does not correlate with our internal usage statistics in several important areas:

1. Awareness: Patron awareness of e-books in libraries between 2008 and 2011 has increased only slightly according to our survey, which was a surprise.  BUT 69% of patrons still reported an awareness level between ‘good’ and ‘excellent’.

2. Usage: As measured by the number of hours a patron uses an e-book each week, usage has remained relatively constant, which was also a surprise.  BUT slightly more than half of patrons still report using e-books every week. (Those using e-books for 5 to 10 hours per week actually increased slightly.)

3. Preference: Patron preference for e-books over print books has not increased as much as we would have expected, but the vast majority of students would still choose electronic over print if available: In 2011 25% of patrons said they would “very often” choose e over p, 24% said they would “often”, and 32% stated the would “sometimes” choose electronic over print. Just 4% of students indicated they would “never” choose electronic books over print if available.

Theories about why these contradictions exist were discussed at length during the Charleston Conference presentation.  One possibility is that far more patrons are using e-books, thus driving usage statistics, but the average patron in 2011 is using them in a similar manner to the average patron in 2008.  Another theory that was discussed at length during the Charleston presentation is that many patrons don’t distinguish between e-books and other online information and simply aren’t aware their usage has increased on this particular format.

We will be posting the live recording from the Charleston Conference shortly and making the survey findings public soon, which we hope will encourage additional discussion.

Matt Barnes
Vice President of Marketing

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.