By Linda Hauck and Merrill Stein
E-Book Survey at Falvey, Spring 2012
Anyone with even a passing interest in reading books, book publishing, libraries or gadgets has noticed that e-books have finally reached that long predicted tipping point to become mainstream. They’re not just for geeky gadget lovers anymore. To glean a clearer picture of how they’d like to see the library collection evolve, we took a closer look at how students and faculty are using our e-books.
History of e-Books at Falvey
E-books (not just digital encyclopedias) have been a part of Falvey Memorial Library’s collection mix since well before the tipping point. In the 1990s Falvey joined a library consortium to purchase a collection of individual titles via NetLibrary, an academic e-book pioneer that has since been acquired by EBSCO Publishing.
Our very first e-books weren’t online at all. In the mid 1990’s the Library purchased CDs with the text of Past Masters and the Library of Latin Texts , both of which were not online. We subscribed to our first online e-book collection, Patrologia Latina, in 1997.
In 2008, the reference librarians undertook a major initiative to shift our reference book collection from print to online. In that year we significantly expanded access to digital encyclopedias, directories, compendia and handbooks. Since we started tracking e-book purchases as a distinct “book” material type, spending on e-books vs. print books has grown from 9.9% in 2007/8 to a plateau of 12.6% in 2008/9 and 12.4% in 2009/10 with a jump to 22.6% in 2010/11.
Falvey’s absolute spending on e-books is much closer to the average spent on e-books in 2011 by graduate and professional libraries than undergraduate libraries, according to a 2011 Library Journal article. However, at 2.9% it is well below the median for graduate/professional libraries (4.5%), undergraduate libraries (3.4%) and also $1million-acquisitions-budget libraries (4.4%).
Until now our understanding of e-book usage patterns by Falvey Memorial Library patrons has been viewed through the prism of usage statistics and unstructured conversations with students and faculty. To view e-book usage from another angle, an online survey was made available, via a link on our website banner, to self-selected respondents during four weeks in the spring of 2012. Six questions looked at the use of Falvey e-books, purpose for use, device used for access, perceived usability and discovery modes. To encourage participation, respondents were entered into a random drawing for one of three $20.00 gift cards.
In total, 88 participants responded, including nearly even numbers undergraduate (45.6%) and graduate students (43.3%). Of the remaining respondents, seven (7.8%) were faculty members and six (6.6%) were staff members or other. The low response rate by faculty makes any conclusions about e-book behavior and preferences for these community members tenuous. (more…)