January 20, 2022

Survey Findings on Students Attitudes Towards Ebooks at the University of Cambridge Now Available

From the ebooks@cambridge Blog:

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a sudden switch to online learning, and an unprecedented need to expand remote and online access to electronic resources.

The Cambridge College Libraries Forum (CCLF) carried out a student survey between 31st May and 16th July 2021 to gather data on attitudes towards ebooks. Students were asked about their general reading preferences, their use of ebooks in 2020-21 (following periods of library closure and remote study for many) and asked to anticipate their reading choices in the future.

There was a high response rate to the survey (751 responses) and it is hoped that the results will help to inform future acquisition decisions and strategy at the University of Cambridge.

Key Findings (via Executive Summary)

Quantitative Results

  • In a situation where students would have full access to libraries in Cambridge, there is a
    preference for ebooks when reading a chapter for study purposes (59% of all students).
    However, students prefer print books for all other scenarios (60% for a textbook consulted
    throughout the year, 68% when reading a whole book for study purposes, and 78% for
    recreational reading).
  • Students were evenly divided between those who always choose an ebook if it is available (34%) and those who only read an ebook if no print copy is available (35%).

  • When asked whether enough of the books on reading lists are available online, 64% replied yes and 36% answered no; we note that not all students use reading lists. In terms of the frequency of use in 202021, 62% of all students who responded used ebooks either daily or several times a week; 17% used them monthly or never.
  • Students were also asked to look forward to a time when everyone can return to campus, and lectures and supervisions can take place in person. 60% of all students anticipate that their use of ebooks will remain the same, 16% believe it will increase, whilst 24% predict that their usage will decrease.

Qualitative Results

  • Where students prefer ebooks, this is largely due to their convenience, accessibility, availability, and for the features on the ebook platform.
  • Negative views of ebooks mostly centred on difficulties reading from a screen, the lack of availability of certain editions or older material, and technical problems with ebook platforms.
  • A number of comments focused on the impact that the COVID19 pandemic has had on ebook use. These relate to their usefulness for remote study or when access to physical libraries was restricted. However, other students commented on the difficulty of using ebooks when they have been working online all day. Many students emphasised the importance of being able to access both print and electronic books to leverage the advantages of both formats.

Direct to Executive Summary

Direct to Complete Survey Findings
41 page; PDF.

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.