The e-book may be the future but it is not yet working, according to librarians and scholarly publishers speaking to the annual meeting of the Special Libraries Association in Chicago in late July.
‘Where are we? In the Wild West,’ Rebecca Vargha of the University of North Carolina’s Library told the meeting during her discussion about ‘e-books: promises and realities’. She noted: ‘I don’t think there is an optimal model yet. Students and instructors are dissatisfied with the content and the interface of e-books.’
In 2010, the University of North Carolina conducted a survey of its students’ attitudes to e-books and found that while the students liked e-books in principle, they hated them in practice. Leslie Reynolds from the Texas A&M University Library told the meeting that – unsurprisingly perhaps – e-books have not formed a large segment of the library’s acquisitions so far. As recently as 2010 they comprised less than one per cent of acquisitions. In April 2012, the library started a new pilot e-book acquisition project which moved from being a ‘librarian-mediated’ to a ‘customer-initiated’ purchasing scheme. As soon as requests for a specific book hit a certain threshold, the library automatically purchases it. So far, 74 volumes had been acquired in this way, with the users unaware that they are, in effect, making a request to purchase.
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