Information World Review reports on why e-books haven't yet caught on in a big way with consumers, despite advances in the technology. One big reason is that textbook and other speciality publishers are dragging their heels, because ebooks will mean a large drop in revenue.
Bill Gates cited electronic textbooks as the next big thing at the launch of Microsoft operating system Vista, but unless publishers are willing to take more risks with how they make their content available, e-textbooks may be left behind by e-learning content delivered in alternative ways such as virtual learning environment plug-ins.
Bournemouth University has brought e-books as much as possible into the virtual learning environment as well as the reading list. Student usage has been high – markedly higher than usage by academics.
But this is not the case at all libraries. Monica Landoni, e-book group leader at Strathclyde University's Department of Computer and Information Sciences, carried out a project on ways to promote e-books. She found that accessibility and visibility were big issues.
No common understanding
"We discovered a lack of common understanding about what e-books were," she explained, "what their advantages over paper books (if any) were, and, importantly, the cost and implications for ever shrinking academic library budgets."
Landoni found that e-book uptake was not always as high as might be expected. "This is a very delicate subject, as the figures we saw last summer in a few academic libraries in Scotland were quite low in terms of usage but that was due to a number of reasons," she said. "E-books were often hiding deep down in catalogues. Not many readers knew they were available. E-book readers were not particularly friendly or stable or usable. And, more importantly, the titles students wanted were not available."
For textbooks, ebooks should be the norm, not the exception. Knowledge changes on a weekly, if not a daily, basis which means that textbooks should be updated via a database, not via print. It sounds like the students are adapting more quickly than the libraries or the professors.