The success of our reading list project will depend to a great extent on how well the Library works with our academic colleagues to understand student reading behaviour, identify core texts and implement e-book pilots.
There has been a considerable amount of work involved in establishing pilots to run in the 2014/15 academic year, from checking for suitable titles and availability to working with academics to run and evaluate the pilot projects with their students.
Given the perceived benefit of providing all students on a course with a personal copy of an electronic core text, we might have assumed that academics would be queueing up to get involved. While many have been keen to work with us, others have been more reticent.
One academic questioned the pedagogical impact of using e-books instead of print, referring to emerging research indicating that reading on paper is more effective than reading online. While electronic journals were seen as an effective way to get around limited access to content, “putting texts online is something else”.
The same member of staff also expressed concerns about the future of academic bookshops, stating that they are a valued presence on campus that may be under threat in the long term.
We have to listen to these concerns and take them on board. We know from our consultations with students that lack of access to core texts is a major problem and that a majority of students want – and expect – to be able to access texts electronically, increasingly on portable devices, without additional financial cost to themselves.
However, we also want to enhance the teaching and learning experience of academic staff and students. We have built evaluation and analysis into the pilot process and we are hoping to get back some detailed, qualitative information about the pedagogical implications (good or bad) of using e-books.
Queries and concerns from our academic colleagues are helping to inform the questions we will ask at the end of the pilot projects and serve as a useful reminder that we can’t assume automatic ‘buy-in’ from everyone we approach. We need to keep listening and keep the conversations going to make this a success.