This excellent survey starts with the emergence of ebooks with computing developments and Project Gutenberg, and looks at the basic question “What is an Ebook?” (a question that recurs in different ways throughout).
It covers all the essential areas that a librarian in particular, but anyone interested in the practical issues around the medium, would wish to know about. There is a thorough coverage of the literature on the topic, as evidenced by excellently referenced chapters (with many useful references), which in itself should make this work standard reading on the topic. There is plenty on the various studies, such as by JISC and via the Springer group, on usage of ebooks and how readers feel about them. This is not just a view from behind the scenes!
The author is a cataloguing manager at the University of Auckland, and has much experience of the technical potential and difficulties of material that is online and accessible 24/7, but where business models and technical issues of MARC records, platforms, and ebook formats, can be a real hindrance, and, of course, costs. Libraries may have to pay a premium to publishers who are wary of a resource that they feel enables piracy and the loss of print sales. Textbooks and availability are ever an issue, and highlight what is at times a gulf between librarians and publishers. It is to the author’s credit that she offers an impartial view of the various sides of the arguments.
There is a round-up of what the different parties can do to improve the situation, including a reminder to libraries to promote ebooks.
The burgeoning range of devices which now support ebooks – from mobile phones and tablets through to now-traditional PCs or laptops – are part of the technology drive which both enables and promotes books in electronic form.
At the same time, the potential for interactivity, and even for the reader to customize the material and upload their own (as with Macmillan’s DynamicBooks1), together with the noted change in reading habits with ebooks – focusing on finding information rather than reading from cover-to-cover – could be joining a transformation of study, of teaching and learning, brought on by the advance and merging of technologies.
“As digital technologies continue to transform the environment for teaching, learning and research, we will continue to see new developments with e-books as well.”2
Ironically but not unusally, ”E-books in academic libraries” is … not available as an ebook.
I emailed Chandos and found out that they do intend to release this, and other titles, as ebooks, but on their own platform – another platform, another bugbear of librarians. Still, progress of sorts.
In the meantime, the final word should be with Ksenija Minčić-Obradović:
“The question is not if, but how, to provide e-books so that they can be used to their maximum potential. Libraries have an important role in making that happen.“3
Post by: Jon Andrews.
All quotes from the book reviewed.