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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    e-Books in libraries: response to IWR

    With a colleague, I have been running a series of training workshops on e-books around the country. They have all been fully booked, attracting senior staff from academic, special and public libraries. e-Books are very much a current issue, as was suggested by the articles in the November Information World Review ... but their success will not depend simply on numbers available and publishers with "credible digitisation projects". I would take issue with some of the assumptions:
    1. Mark Chillingworth writes, "Now, with e-journals successful..." - Are they? They are certainly used - because there is little alternative, but most university libraries have to subscribe to several aggregators in order to get the required coverage, a very expensive option, and one of the reasons that open access and institutional repositories are becoming so important. As one delegate said, "I wish all the aggregators would aggregate!"
    2. Digital books have been around rather more than 5 years (in fact the first appeared in the 1970s); publishers have been offering serious e-book lists for 4 years, and aggregators for somewhat longer.
    3. While the JISC facilitate e-book provision in FE and HE, other significant sectors are left out in the cold - schools, for example. NetLibrary have schools as their most important sector in the US and are focussing on schools in the UK ... and yet we have the anomaly of 6th form colleges with advantageous JISC licences and school 6th forms unable to afford licences.
    4. Librarians do not know whether they should acquire e-books. The fact that they exist is not sufficient reason. Some serious usage studies need to be undertaken to investigate whether e-books 'work'. Do students use them when they are available? Are they preferred? Or tolerated? Do students learn from them as well, better or less well than they do from print books? And so on. Only when these questions are answered does it really "make sense for libraries to purchase them".


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