Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Libraries, Patrons and eBooks - report of a study

This is an interesting report of a Pew Internet study which was done in Nov -Dec 2011 and funded by the Gates Foundation:
http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/06/22/libraries-patrons-and-e-books/
As expected with something funded by the Gates Foundation, it focuses on U.S public libraries but I think that its still of interest to those working in academic libraries.  From my point of view, findings that Americans value and use the library and like eBooks but often either can't find or use the eBooks that the library offers are key.  Unlike paper books that sit on a shelf, a library user who doesn't know how to search or where to begin searching, will have a hard time locating eBooks which appear readily accessible to library workers.  In addition, as long as a print book is written in legible type-face on reasonable quality paper, most readers do not require an special technology to just pull a book off a shelf and start reading it.  Not so with eBooks.  Lack of standardisation and interoperability in eBook readers and content platforms in addition to financial issues, which the study did not address, there appears to be a whole new set of barriers to access to information and literacy in general. 
Personally speaking, I also think that the study was a little shallow and/or that it oversimplifies the "eBooks in libraries" issue.  However, given the changing, "wild west" nature of eBooks, I think that it will be a long time before the sort of detailed, thoughtful analysis I would like to see will be possible.  In the meantime, I try to read everything I get my hands on about eBooks in libraries!

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