Monday, 01 November 2010
Electronic books platforms – or eBooks – have been a popular discussion topic in library circles in recent years. They offer a number of apparent virtues, as they take up no physical shelf space and they enable searching on a book’s complete text, including bibliographies and footnotes (thereby compensating for sketchy tables of contents and indexes). Some publishers, such as Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, enable searching on ebooks alongside journals and other publication types, providing an online research environment which can bypass the “silos” of particular formats. For libraries constrained by tight budgets and staff shortages in a poor economy, they may provide a faster and more economic means of expanding a book collection.
An emerging subset of eBooks are eTextbooks [electrionic textbooks]. Over the past few years, these have been cropping in the form of individual titles at college bookstores (such as the Tufts online bookstore) and online rentals, and a number of publishers now offer comprehensive platforms of textbooks to which institutions can subscribe, thereby purchasing textbooks directly for students. There is even an open access [OA] eTextbook movement, in parallel to the OA journal movement. Despite some apparent advantages of these products, they have not been uniformly well-received by their primary target audience – college students – as evidenced both by national surveys and by focus groups which Tisch Library recently conducted. More about these new takes on a traditional book format is detailed in an article in the Fall, 2010 issue of the Tufts TRL Innovations newsletter.