A Golden Opportunity for Librarians: If Managed Wisely, Adding Electronic Books to a Collection Can Open Doors to New Benefits and Services for Library Clients

By Wheeler, Justine | Information Outlook, July-August 2011 | Go to article overview

A Golden Opportunity for Librarians: If Managed Wisely, Adding Electronic Books to a Collection Can Open Doors to New Benefits and Services for Library Clients


Wheeler, Justine, Information Outlook


The rise of e-books in the library market has been nothing short of revolutionary. Librarians have embraced e-books for their ease of archiving, capacity to allow simultaneous multi-user access, and ability to expand library collections without encroaching on valuable library space.

The increased availability of popular fiction and non-fiction has received much attention, but according to a report from Simba Information about professional publishing in the digital age, "e-books are demonstrating explosive growth in the professional scholarly market as print sales subside." In fact, Simba estimates that professional and scholarly books account for 75 percent of the e-book market (Strempel 2011).

This makes sense when one considers that many of the features and enhancements that make e-books so appealing are geared to "not-for-entertainment" reading. For instance, our clients can mark up our e-books; change the size of the font and view multi-media content integrated within the book. Researchers can create their own virtual "bookshelf" that not only allows them to quickly retrieve known books but also use keywords to search across customized collections of books. Of course, not all of these features are available for all e-books at the moment--though the educational field appears to be leading the way in this regard--but they're coming, and we need to be prepared for their arrival.

Not surprisingly, as e-book sales increase, so, too, do sales and use of e-readers and tablets. A June 2011 Pew report found that e-reader ownership in the United States doubled from 6 percent to 12 percent between November 2010 and May 2011 (Purcell 2011). And let's not forget that an e-reader isn't the only way to read an e-book. Our clients have a multitude of e-book platforms from which to choose, with single-function devices such as the Kindle, Sony Reader and Kobo facing stiff competition from multi-function device options such as the iPad, Android and Blackberry.

Still, despite the excitement and hype surrounding e-books, some librarians, publishers, authors and consumers of information have concerns about them. These concerns center on choices and limitations related to areas such as access, ownership, interoperability, preservation, licensing, and digital rights management (DRM). …

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