Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

A Circulation Analysis of Print Books and E-Books in an Academic Research Library

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

A Circulation Analysis of Print Books and E-Books in an Academic Research Library

Article excerpt

In order for collection development librarians to justify the adoption of electronic books (e-books), they need to determine if e-books satisfy the information needs of patrons. One method to determine this is to measure e-book usage. This study compared the usage of 7,880 titles that were available in both print and e-book format at the Duke University Libraries. Although the results of this study cannot be generalized, it does provide information on the use of e-books in one academic research library and implications for e-book collection development.


Over the past several years, a large number of libraries have begun to offer electronic books (e-books) to their patrons. (1) The e-books provided to patrons are generally digital versions of books that also appear in print. They provide the same content as the print books, but are delivered in a different format. E-books offer a number of advantages over their print counterparts for both the patron and the library. For the patron, e-books offer 24/7 availability, remote access outside the physical library, full-text searching, and copying and pasting of text and images. For the library; e-books require no shelf space or reshelving, and are never lost, damaged, stolen, or overdue.

Despite these advantages, e-books still must prove their value to collection development librarians in one key respect--do patrons use them? Understanding whether patrons use e-books is important because collection development librarians generally take the usage of materials in the collection as an indication that the library is satisfying patron information needs. Thus, a complete assessment of the value of e-books in libraries requires examining the usage of e-books. However, evaluation of e-book usage is most likely to be useful when placed in the context of print book use, as print book usage provides something against which to measure e-book use. Comparing print book and e-book usage is appropriate when they provide the same content in both formats, particularly because librarians are increasingly traced with deciding whether to supplement or supplant new print book purchases with e-book purchases.

Assuming the data indicate that patrons do use e-books, then integrating them into a library's collection development strategy requires understanding how they are used relative to their print counterparts. Relevant questions for collection development include: Are the same titles used in e-book format as in print? Does the overlap in usage vary. by subject, or is it consistent across all subjects? Does the availability of e-books affect the use of print books? Addressing these questions about the use of e-books and print books will suggest implications for e-book collection development.

The purpose of this study was to perform a circulation analysis of e-book and print versions of the same titles at an academic research library. For example, the hardcover version of MIT Press's The Radiance of France is compared against the e-book version of The Radiance of France. This study analyzed the use of netLibrary e-books and print books by the patrons of Duke University Libraries during an average study period of sixteen months per title. Duke University Libraries is an academic research library housing 4.5 million volumes and serving approximately 10,800 undergraduate and graduate students. Since 2001, Duke University Libraries has been offering e-books to patrons using the services of netLibrary, a division of OCLC Online Computer Library Center. At the time of this study, the netLibrary is an e-book service provider that serves the institutional market. At the time of this study, the netLibrary collection of e-books contained approximately 50,000 titles from more than 300 publishers. Individual institutions or consortia purchase e-books from netLibrary, netLibrary hosts the e-books on behalf of the institutions, making them available to those institutions' patrons. …

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