Many people really don’t know what to do with ebooks

Jun 24 2011 Published by under Information Science

Ever since MPOW got rid of our physical collection, I’ve had more and more to do with ebooks. We can’t replace the collection we built over the course of 60 years but we do have access to a lot of stuff. The biggest single provider we have is Springer for many reasons. Their books come as unlocked pdfs, one per chapter. So they kind of in a way work like journal articles. I mean, you’re on a platform that also has journals and it really doesn’t seem much different. But…. if you’re presented with a print book and you need to find information in it, you rely on the training you had from librarians and teachers from elementary school onward. You start with the table of contents or the index. Makes sense for an ebook, too, in many cases. People instead recognize it as a web search pattern, not a book.

I have a hard time convincing our technical staff to try the ebooks. They are skeptical. They don’t believe they’re actually getting the book. They don’t think it’s going to work.

So it was with interest that I saw this evidence summary in the new issue of Evidence Based Library and Information Practice: Undergraduate Science Students are Uncertain of How to Find Facts in E-books Compared to Print Books by Christina E. Carter.The students thought the ebooks should work like Google but they didn’t. The reviewer commented that they didn’t compare the ebooks to journals, which I pointed out above.

This was reviewing: Berg, S. A., Hoffmann, K., & Dawson, D. (2010). Not on the same page: Undergraduates' information retrieval in electronic and print books. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(6), 518-525.

I’m not going to summarize the summary further – particularly since it’s open access.

I take it for granted about the standard ebooks (not the goofy platforms that require some bizarre check out and download and authentication), but I shouldn’t. People still don’t know how to use them or even believe they exist.

5 responses so far

  • Zuska says:

    That is depressing.

  • Depending on what kind of information you are looking for, Springer's format can be challenging. To search the entire book you'd need to download each chapter, and probably put it in a PDF "binder". There's a kind of death-by-clicks: for editing books where chapters are relatively independent (common in what I read from Springer), single PDFs are a good option. But sometimes it would be preferable to download the entire book in one click, rather than 12 or 22.

    Even though it's not a "goofy format", the platform itself is challenging -- blinking ads, embedded previews of PDFs (thus requiring care for downloading and printing), paywalls when you try to download certain PDFs (and access issues off-campus)...

    There's not standardization between platforms, and while librarians are publisher-centric, most consumers aren't.

    (And don't get me started about the format-dependent, outrageous pricing!)

    • Christina Pikas says:

      That's all very true. I guess you're right that the journals on SpringerLink don't have the preview function. You can search within the book on the site but I guess you mean search within the pdf. Hm.. the thing is that there's only one book on there that I ever wanted the whole thing for (you know what I mean). For that one I bought a $25 print on demand copy!

      As far as platforms and drm and pricing and... yes, you're absolutely right. What I was talking about is at a higher level - recognizing these things as books for the purposes of how to interact with them and what they will be useful for.

  • Dave C. says:

    In my experience, ebooks are great for pleasure reading, but difficult for scholarly reading. While reading scholarly non-fiction I need to occasionally underline and write comments on the sides so that I can find things in the books at a later time. When I recall reading something in a book, if I want to find it again things are pretty easy going if I marked it somewhere in the pages. If I did not put any marks in the book then I have a difficult time finding it. If the day arrives when you can underline and write comments in the borders with an ebook (it is probably here), I will still prefer a *real* book because it is easier to flip pages and get an overall sense of where things are.

    • Christina Pikas says:

      I think books in science are often not read from cover to cover like pleasure reading books are (fiction or nonfiction). I think it's a lot the same as what happens with journals: ebooks are good for searching, access, and quick browsing, but are printed to read. Of course we have at least two platforms that don't let us print books... and that causes a lot of issues.