E-Books: Reinventing the Wheel

The session on e-books was convened by Dalia Platero, who worked for the Guelph Public Library for a while in 2006. Warren Holder, Electronic Resources Co-ordinator of the University of Toronto Library, presented an update on the work the University of Toronto has done in acquiring, integrating, and evaluating e-books in the collection.
While there is a gradual increase in the use of e-books, there are still some problems. Whether to use a subscription basis or to own the e-books outright is still a matter of debate. Warren Holder believes strongly in ownership (in perpetuity in fact, which has been the university’s policy for most material acquired), but in the U.K. the subscription method is strongly supported.
Some publishers are still wary of the e-book format, and core textbooks have still not found a comfortable home in the e-book format (the fear of lost revenue from this cash cow seems to be the dominant concern).
While usage of e-books is up, there is still a question about how the e-books are being used. One unique feature offered by some e-book vendors is the ability to see page-by-page usage. The software can depict how people read e-books. Terms such as the "harvester" and the "hunter" were used to describe the habits shown on graphs. Warren Holder indicated that getting good usage data is still quite difficult for a lot of library resources, and one method that should be explored more is user panels or focus groups.
There are a number of ways to promote e-books. Listing all e-books by title on the web site is one way, but integrating the MARC records in the catalogue is a very effective way of ensuring good access to e-books. Orientation classes are another possibility, but, as Warren Holder indicated, the number of people who will benefit from classes will always be much smaller than the number who will use the chief discovery tools such as the catalogue.
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