In the last of our literature review reports, we’re looking towards the future.
With the increasing popularity of online and distance learning courses, the ubiquity of mobile devices and the adoption of new e-book formats, e-books are expected increasingly to replace print volumes in academic libraries. E-books will continue to meet students’ needs since studies of information-seeking habits conclude that what is most important to them is speed, efficiency and convenience. The growing importance of e-books will have a number of consequences for academic libraries, in areas such as the technologies they make available to users, the use of library space, user education and support, and pricing and licensing models and arrangements. Development of new e-book features should include, among other things, annotative and sharing capabilities. Challenges in the context of e-book preservation and sustainability include perpetual access and preservation licensing issues. Problems of long-term digital storage and the devices that display them quickly becoming obsolete were also highlighted as issues.
This time, our literature review report explores the theme of ‘reading behaviour’, focussing on student preferences and perceptions of e-books.
The results of this theme suggest that e-books can certainly add value to students in their academic study, and recent increased usage has also led to new forms of reading behaviour taking place with electronic content. New trends in technology are certainly having an influence of student preference for e-books, with personalisation now important to students who want their content to be delivered in a similar way to that of social media feeds. Mobile use is also increasing, as it suits the way students are now studying in shorter and more concentrated bursts. Nevertheless preference for print is still strong amongst supposedly tech-savvy students, many of whom opt for print when engaging in serious academic study or extended reading. The literature also suggests that libraries could provide more effective support and training in e-book use, and this in turn would give libraries a better understanding of the evolving habits of students, like as one study remarks, ‘we continue to experience the revolutionary technological, behavioural, societal and neurological aspects of online reading.
The latest in our series of literature review reports has identified a number of innovative ways of purchasing and delivery.
One particular institution is part of a state wide consortium that frequently negotiates prices for the whole state system, while another has developed a purchase predictor system prototype. Other institutions have found Demand or Patron Driven Acquisition a cost-effective way to purchase books at the user’s point of need and libraries must recognize that many library users are better suited to identify the resources that will best meet their needs, often before librarians even know they want it.
Much remains to be seen on how Demand or Patron Driven Acquisition will affect the bottom line for publishers and what impact this might have on the pricing (and bundling) of electronic books. At the time of writing there are a number of e-book pilots (providing students with core e-books) taking place at other institutions and it would be worth keeping track of any publicised outcomes from these.
As mentioned in the introductory post about our literature reviews, the Books Right Here Right Now project has been looking at various key themes to inform our work. One of the themes explored readers’ preferences for online and printed texts.
The results of this research were mixed with some students preferring print for its ease of use – or their fondness for the physical feel of a book – while others preferred electronic access for the convenience and search functionality that it offers. Studies recognise that new forms of reading behaviour are occurring with electronic content, with the process of reading on screen being cognitively different to the process of reading on paper. Further research on the technological, behavioural, societal and neurological aspects of online reading is required but new forms of non-traditional reading behaviour include concepts such as ‘power-browsing’ through titles and readers following the ‘path-of-least-resistance’ to find the information they are looking for as quickly as possible. It is also acknowledged that the technological infrastructure for online reading is a work in progress. Problems such as eye fatigue from reading on screen are common, possibly putting major academic publishers off investing in e-readers for the time being.
This blog entry focuses on the findings of our literature review research, as discussed in an earlier post. The results of this research theme revealed some major benefits to students and academics at institutions using reading list systems, not least that the core principles of information literacy (to scope, gather, present and evaluate information) can all be demonstrated within a reading list. At some institutions reading list systems have been connected to a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and the VLE has become be the place where students go to get everything they need for their academic study.
This has been well-received by academics who state that such integration increases students’ engagement with their course reading. At the same time, it is also apparent that some reading lists are not realising their full potential, often because they are not being kept up to date by academics who believe the effort involved in maintaining reading lists is disproportionate to the benefits they bring to students.
As a major part of the Books Right Here Right Now project we have been carrying out a literature review to understand all the issues and inform the primary research we are undertaking with our students and academic colleagues.
Six main themes were investigated in this literature review:
- Identification of core texts
- E-book pilots
- Reading behaviour
- Purchasing procedures
- Reading strategy
- Technology and facilitation of access
In the first instance keywords to be used for searching were identified for each of these themes, with input from relevant staff on the project group. The agreed keywords were then used to search on a number of pre-determined sources, including databases such as Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA), ERIC, Emerald and Factiva as well as mailing lists such as LIS-E-BOOKS and LIS-ERESOURCES.
As many of the themes related to current developments in academic libraries, publishing or technology, and the project is focused on the future, the literature review was limited to the retrieval of content from 2009 to the present day.
In total just over 50 items of literature were identified using the methodology outlined above. To present the results of the literature review, findings were grouped into the following themes:
- Reading behaviour (understanding student preferences for and perceptions of e-books)
- Reading behaviour (online reading versus print; device choice)
- Discovery (reading lists; information seeking behaviour)
- Innovation (new ways of purchasing e-book pilots; new ways of content delivery)
- The future (predictions; sustainability)
Each of these themes was taken in turn and any items from the literature search that fitted under these themes were identified by reading the title and abstract. For each piece of literature the aim was to extract key findings, key statistics, leading exponents and any implications or recommendations for The University of Manchester Library. Sometimes items of literature made reference to other studies that had taken place. When it was clear that these references fitted well into the themes of the literature review, they were consulted, analysed and also included in findings alongside the other articles.
To finish off, once the key information had been extracted from the literature and matched to an appropriate theme, it was then incorporated into a series of slides on Slideshare to give a visual representation of the findings.
We will share these findings via this blog over the coming months.
photo credit: stats via photopin (license)