Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

E-Books and strange cases

With the Kindle seemingly becoming hot property, and new ebook reader devices appearing on almost a daily basis, Dan D’Agostino has written a thought- provoking blog on how the latest developments may affect libraries. To summarise (apologies to him if  this reflects my interpretation of the article not what he wrote!), he suggests that by getting involved some years back, libraries have gone for the wrong technology path: users want e-books they can download onto their readers not e-books they can only read on a networked PC on campus. Moreover, by restricting our users to usage on a networked PC, the users are only scanning the material rather than reading it.

I have reservations on both points. Firstly, some ebook platforms do allow downloads – I know of Netlibrary and Dawsonera which allow time-limited pdf downloads which are usable on most ebook readers that I’m aware of. Secondly, I doubt that most UK HE undergraduates do more than scan any book, whether paper or electronic. They are looking for the information to fulfill their immediate need, so they grab those few facts (and hopefully don’t plagiarise them!) . Few undergraduates have the time to read books in full and I suspect that this has been true for longer than most academics would want to admit.

However the blog is useful in putting forward that just maybe a new platform is at last emerging (I’m not sure how many false starts it has had!) and that libraries need to do something about it. We need to keep up the pressure on e-book suppliers to allow time-limited downloads. We also need to become the recognised place for information on campus about this technology (if we don’t do this someone else will). I’m not sure I want to get too involved in the details yet: there seem to me to be too many competing formats for both the data and the ebook readers, but maybe that Open University model of issuing each user with the basic study materials for his/her course in electronic format on Day One is getting closer for the rest of us.

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January 8, 2010 - Posted by | Libraries |

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