Use, acceptance and expectations for the ebook in a research library

 

[Versión castellana | Versió catalana]


Irene-Sofía Romero-Otero

Researcher
Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences (CCHS)
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Evaluation of Scientific Publications Research Group (EPUC)

Esperanza Iglesias-Fernández

Library Manager
Library of the Institute of Physical Chemistry “Rocasolano” (Biqfr)
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

Elea Giménez-Toledo

Research Fellow at the CSIC and director of research group EPUC
Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences (CCHS)
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Evaluation of Scientific Publications Research Group (EPUC)

 

Abstract

Objectives: This work attempts to establish the use and attitudes that users of the Library of the Institute of Physical-Chemistry “Rocasolano” (Biqfr) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) have with regard to scientific and technical ebooks. Thereby a better understanding will be obtained of the behavioural patterns towards this electronic resource which is in its early stages of implementation within the research environment.

Methods: An online survey was carried out of the users mentioned through the library blog, obtaining a sample of seventy users of which 63% use Biqfr ebooks.

Results: In the main, ebooks are used for the purpose of work and research, and the PC is the device most used to read them. Despite this, the attitude of the users towards ebooks is considered conservative, though at the same time optimistic, as they consider them as a useful tool when searching for information.

 

1 Introduction

During recent years various studies have been carried out which have demonstrated the importance, the increase in use and the progressive penetration of ebooks in the academic and scientific sector (university and research centres). The reasons for this progression are widely known: immediacy of access, updating capability, storage capacity, low costs (in distribution, but not in other areas such as production, marketing, etc.), connectivity, space saving, portability or the possibility of access anywhere, among other advantages.

The ebook is beginning to have a significant role both in the classroom and distance learning, as well as in research activity. This becomes evident in the results of one of the largest studies of users carried out by the JISC National e-Books Observatory Project during 2008 and 2009, which shows that ebooks have an increasing importance among university students, teachers and researchers, indicating that usage among the UK university community was 65% (JISC, 2009). Along the same lines the work of the Centre for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research (CIBER, 2008) and the study of Renner, indicate the increase in the use of ebooks by the academic and scientific community (Renner, 2007), becoming one of the most appropriate resources for research activities, where the user needs to locate precise information in a short space of time. Moreover, the study developed by Springer, who through a survey of users from five institutions evaluated the usage and attitudes towards ebooks, concluded that users have a predisposition to utilize ebooks and that they are beginning to progressively incorporate them into their information search processes and research habits as a complement to printed books. Regarding usage statistics Springer pointed out that "for institutions that were early adopters of ebooks users accessed ebooks with 50 to 100 percent of the frequency with which they accessed online journals" (Springer, 2009). Similar approaches are also present in the studies by (Lam, et al, 2009) and the (Library Journal, 2010), who point out ebooks as practical reference sources, which favors its use among students and researchers. In the analysis carried out with the University College of London students, the percentage of ebook users reached 44% (Rowlands, et al., 2007). The Health Sciences Library System (HSLS) of the University of Pittsburgh identified through a survey that ebooks in its academic library were used by 55.4% of users (Fold, Wessel and Czechowski, 2011). The work of Shrimplin et al., (2011) indicated a 100% increase in usage in 2010 compared with 2009 and ebooks came out as the second most used resource for research and class preparation. The significant increase in chapter downloads, 88% from one year to the next, is described in Bucknell work (2010). Other studies have dealt with the increasing popularity of the ebook, showing greater use of the electronic book compared to the printed book (Littman and Silipigni, 2004), (Croft and Bedi, 2005) (Safley, 2006). There is no doubt, therefore, of the gradual increase of ebook users that is occurring in university libraries (Shelburne, 2009).

According to Soules, some of the main reasons for the increased use of ebooks are: "the growing number of available e-books, the purchase of e-book packages by consortia, the greater presence of MARC records for e-books in the library catalog, the expanding number of distance learning programs and courses, the emerging familiarity of devices that display e-books, from Kindle to the now-ubiquitous mobile phone/device, and the spread of wireless networks" (Soules, 2009). Up to now, the studies carried out identify not only advantages, but also disadvantages in the use of ebooks: "This literature indicates a complex and somewhat contradictory landscape of attitudes and opinions about the medium. While several studies have indicated generally positive views of electronic books, many reflect mixed or quite negative user responses" (Shrimplin, et al., 2011). This is also shown in the studies of Appleton, 2004; Bennett and Landoni, 2005; Gregory, 2008, among others.

However, according to the results of the Ebrary global ebook survey 2011, cited in the CILIP study, "72% of students would use ebooks if there were more titles in their subject area and 60% of students would use ebooks if there were less restrictions on printing and copying" (CILIP, 2012).

Likewise, other studies note a progressive penetration of electronic monographs in the editorial market, especially that directed at the academic and scientific environment, in which the appearance of new ways of learning have been favoured (Secker and Plewes, 2002; Mclellan and Hawkins, 2006). The increase of ebooks offered in academic publishers catalogues is evident. In the Spanish context, for example, the increase in the electronic publications of Science and Technology in 2012 was 77.6% compared to 2011. In contrast, during the same period, in the areas of Humanities and Social Sciences, which represent 32.6% of the electronic publication of books, this type of publication decreased 22.6%, while in previous years there was a steady increase. (Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, 2013).

Attitudes towards this electronic resource vary according to age, gender, academic level and discipline. For example, Lamothe's study (2012) on the use of ebooks in the J. N. Desmarais Library of Laurentian University concludes that there was quantitative evidence that PhD. students use ebooks the most, followed by master students (Lamothe, 2012). Similarly, the Carlock and Perry study (2008), which employed the methodology of discussion groups, concluded that lecturers from the faculties of sciences and engineering are more inclined to use ebooks than those from the faculties of humanities and social sciences.

The ebook has become another consultation tool, increasing "access to science and research" (Van der Velde and Ernst, 2009). Therefore, the "adoption of academic e-books and the movement away from print books remains a complex dynamic that is significantly influenced by one's area of study or research. Comments by survey respondents who both use and prefer academic e-books over print books remind us that the transition is far from easy" (University of California Libraries, 2011).

 

2 Objectives

The users of the library are a very important catalyst for arousing interest in a particular type of resource or particular type of edition. In a research library where users need highly specialized information and, at the same time, are very used to using different sources of information, the response of users to a new resource is decisive.

In this sense, a case study with the users of the Biblioteca Instituto de Química-Física "Rocasolano" (Biqfr) which belongs to the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), was proposed in order to know and analyze the usage and acceptance of scientific ebooks in a research context. The specific objectives proposed were as follow:

  1. Identify details of the use of the collection of ebooks in Biqfr by the users of this library.
  2. Show what the behaviour of the research library users is in relation to electronic resources.
  3. Identify the reasons for acceptance or rejection/cautiousness in the use of ebooks.

Studies on users have always been necessary to determine which expectations of the readers have been achieved and those which have not, and as a result, to identify possible improvements in library management. Studying the behaviour of users with regard to a particular resource such as the ebook, allows, in addition, to bring to the surface matters which are not strictly library related, such as the format of ebooks or the characteristics of the edition and its functionalities. These aspects, which result from the models applied by each publisher, must be transmitted in the book chain (from the user to the publisher and including the librarian or the subscription agency) so that the needs of all are aligned to the maximum.

The library selected for this study is specialized in chemistry, physics, structural biology, biochemistry, among other disciplines. It was established in 1946, at the same time as the Instituto de Química-Física "Rocasolano", and since its beginnings Biqfr has been innovative: free access to collections, display cases for the last issue and last year of journals, etc. Within the CSIC Library Network, Birfq was a pioneer, in the acquisition of ebooks in 2007. Its trajectory and policy regarding ebooks are a good example of the changes that the libraries are going through with the implementation of this electronic resource as part of the content offer that are put at users' disposal (Romero-Otero and Toledo-Giménez, 2013), and the fact of being a pioneer in the creation of a collection of ebooks allows it to have a long and interesting trajectory for detecting the perception, interests and acceptance of the use of this resource in the environment of research libraries.

 

3 Methodology

In this study the survey is the methodology used to collect information from users. It is considered the most suitable methodology to be able to reach all users of the research library. An online questionnaire was designed which was distributed among the users of the Biqfr of CSIC and was promoted from the library itself.

Initially, the study sample consisted of 62 researchers belonging to this institute, among those included were: research staff (from three categories: research fellows, research scientists and research professors), post-doctoral researchers and public research institution researchers.

However, the research library also has other users such as predoctoral students, university students, research technicians and online users from other institutes of CSIC, which means that, potentially, the size of the sample to which the survey was addressed was not determined.

As the questionnaire was distributed through the library webpage and the recipients were not only the research staff, but also external users of the institute, the total number of responses obtained was 70. The response rate of the members of IQFR was 91.9%.

With the objective of offering more representative results and to distinguish the profiles of different users, the responses were grouped by a) researchers (staff and postdoctoral) and b) students (predoctoral and university students).

The survey was launched through the Biqfr blog, the means by which users were able to gain access and participate. It is important to indicate that this means was opted for because the Biqfr blog is one of the most fluid and visited channels of communication among users and library research personnel. Reminders were also sent by email and the collaboration of Biqfr library research staff was requested, so that they could contribute personally to the dissemination of the survey, informing and reminding all users coming into contact with the library about it.

The online survey was carried out in the period from 7th to 28th March 2011. Its design was characterised by being simple, using clear language and presenting specific questions (12 in total). The aim was to respond to and go into depth on each of the specific objectives of the research.

Finally, through the SPSS programme the data was processed and descriptive results obtained by means of frequency distribution tables and contingency tables adding the statistic c2 to check if there was a relationship between the variables studied; therefore, it was a non parametric study at a descriptive level only.

 

4 Results

In the analysis carried out on users of the Biqfr, their specialized character is important, as the potential recipients of the survey were, for the most part, researchers who are established or in training and university teachers.

Regarding those who answered the survey, the predominant profile was that of research staff and postdoctoral researchers with 81.4%, and an age range of between 36 and 55 in 50% of the cases. Graphic 1 shows the response distribution by professional category or academic status and by age. This data permits types of users to be identified and relate their profile with the types of response, attitudes, etc., that they have with regard to the ebook.

 
 Response distribution according to academic status and age

Graphic 1. Response distribution according to academic status and age

 

As could be expected, in the student group (predoctoral and university students) young users predominate, that is, up to 35 years of age; in contrast, in the researcher group (postdoctoral and research staff), although there are users belonging to the three age groups, there is a greater presence of those in the age range between 36 and 55 years.

In relation to the research area of the respondents, more than a half of the users (64.3%) work in the area of chemistry. They are followed by those specialized in physics (24.3%) and other disciplines (11.4%), among which structural biology stands out.

By comparing the age variable with that of status, the existence of a significant relation can be detected (c2=16.957 and P-valor=0.000). This relationship is due to the fact that the type of answers for each of the areas studied is different depending on the professional categories that have been analyzed. A greater participation of researchers in the field of chemistry can be observed, with 75.4% of the total answers within this area, while only 15.8% of the respondents belong to the area of physics; however, 61.5% of the answers of the later come from predoctoral and university students (see table 1).

 
Academic status
Area of work or study
 
 
Physics
Chemistry
Other areas
Total

Predoctoral and university students

n
8
2
3
13
%
61,5
15,4
23,1
100,0

Researchers

n
9
43
5
57
%
15,8
75,4
8,8
100,0

Total

n
17
45
8
70
%
24,3
64,3
11,4
100,0
c2 = 16,957 i P – valor = 0,000

Table 1: Area of work or study vs academic status

 

4.1 Use of Biqfr ebooks

The results obtained allow us to affirm that the level of usage of scientific-technical ebooks in the research library is high, as 63% of users surveyed indicated that they have used this type of electronic resource at some time.

A significant relation between the age of the respondents and the utilization of ebooks was detected (c2=10.349 and P-valor=0.006), as the age groups up to 35 years (55.6%) and between 36 and 55 years (80.0%) were those who most utilized this electronic resource, compared to the 56 years and more group who have not used it (64.7%).

 
 Use of ebooks by age

Graphic 2. Use of ebooks by age

 

Researchers as well as students have used this electronic resource equally, that is to say that neither of the two groups stand out as making greater use of the ebook given that there is no relationship between the variables. Therefore, age constitutes a more conditioning factor than status, as was expected.

On the other hand, it is interesting to observe the motives given by users for not using ebooks: (see table 2): 46.2% have not used them because they find the information they need in other sources such as electronic journals and databases. 38.5% indicated that reading on the screen was uncomfortable, while 34.6% stated simply a lack of knowledge for not using ebooks. A much smaller percentage of respondents, 3.8%, indicated that the cause of the lack of use was the poor offer of books in this format in their interest areas, or the difficulty of finding them in the Biqfr catalogue. These data demonstrates that lack of use is due not only to the absence of ebooks on pertinent subjects in the libraries, but rather to acquired habits, which leads users to consult firstly other kinds of resources and/or makes them reluctant to take on a new information resource, a phenomenon which has occurred constantly throughout history when an innovative technology or format is faced with.

 

Motives

Responses

%

Information in other sources

12

46,2

Uncomfortable reading on the screen

10

38,5

Lack of awareness

9

34,6

Difficulty to find ebooks in the catalogue

1

3,8

Limited offer in users’ interest areas

1

3,8

Other reasons

3

11,5

Table 2. Motives for not using scientific-technical ebooks

 

In open answer questions, in which users could express their opinions, a strong attachment to the printed book, was not detected compared to the ebook. Probably this attitude would be different in a social sciences and humanities library, where the printed book is highly valued both for its content as well as an object.

With regard to the difference by age (see table 3), 50% of the group of those up to 35 years mentioned the lack of awareness that they have of this electronic resource as the main reason for the lack of use of ebooks. The response rate is similar to the 36 to 55 year age group, but increases to 57.1%. In the case of users of 56 years or more, 63.6% indicated that the main motive for not using ebooks is that they find the information they need from other sources.

The second reason for not using ebooks, both in the age groups up to 35 and 56 years and more is that it is uncomfortable to read them on the screen. In contrast, for the 36 to 55 years age group, the second reason is that they find the information that they need from other sources.

 
Motives
 
Age
 
 
Up to 35
36-55
56+
Total
Lack of awareness
n
4
4
1
9
 
 
%
50,00
57,10
9,10
 
Difficulty to find ebooks in the catalogue
n
0
0
1
1
 
 
%
0,00
0,00
9,10
 
Uncomfortable reading on the screen
n
3
2
5
10
 
 
%
37,50
28,60
45,50
 
Limited offer in users’ interest areas
n
0
0
1
1
 
 
%
0,00
0,00
9,10
 
Information in other sources
n
2
3
7
12
 
 
%
25,00
42,90
63,60
 
Other motives
n
1
1
1
3
 
 
%
12,50
14,30
9,10
 
Total
n
8
7
11
26

Table 3. Motives for not using ebooks by age groups

 

The three groups coincide in answering that the reasons with least influence for not using ebooks are the difficulty in finding them in the library catalogue and the limited availability of ebooks in their areas of interest. From these results it can be concluded that the reasons which restrain the use of ebooks are related to acquired habits (reading on paper more than on the screen, consultation of the habitual sources with respect to new ones) or, in other words, the work of librarians and publishers is valued and they are not seen as barriers to the use of the ebook.

Regarding answers by status (see table 4), 66.7% of students (predoctoral and university students) do not use ebooks due to the lack of awareness that they have with respect to this electronic resource, which shows either a need for training in the use of information resources or a lack of regular contact with their libraries. On the other hand, the researchers group (staff and postdoctoral), which represents 55.0%, mentioned that they find the information that they need in other sources of information, and therefore, they do not need new ones. As a second motive both groups agree indicating that reading ebooks on the screen is uncomfortable, which leads to their lack of interest in this resource. In contrast, the reasons which least give problems, when ebooks are used, are the difficulty in finding them in the catalogue and the limited availability in their areas of interest, a conclusion that coincides with the responses obtained with the groups by age.

 
Motives
Status
   
Predoc. and univ. students
Researchers
Total
Lack of awareness
n
4
5
9
 
%
66,70
25,00
 
Difficulty to find ebooks in the catalogue
n
0
1
1
 
%
0,00
5,00
 
Uncomfortable reading on the screen
n
2
8
10
 
%
33,30
40,00
 
Limited offer in users’ interest areas
n
0
1
1
 
%
0,00
5,00
 
Information in other sources
n
1
11
12
 
%
16,70
55,00
 
Other motives
n
2
1
3
 
%
33,30
5,00
 
Total
n
6
20
26

Table 4. Motives for not using ebooks by status

 

4.2 Behaviour of users towards the scientific-technical ebook

With regard to how ebooks are used, 79.5% of the respondents use them for research, 77.3% employ them for general consultations and 43.2% for study. To a lesser extent, 25.0% of users utilize them as a means for scientific and academic dissemination and 18.2% for class preparation.

In addition, usage changes according to the age group (see table 5). Thus, users up to 35 years answered that they use ebooks mainly to make general consultations, while the group between 36 and 55 years mentioned research as the main use of the ebook. The group of older users, referred to a dual usage of ebooks: for research and for general consultation.

 
Purposes
Up to 35
36-55
56+
Total
General consultation
n
10
20
4
34
 
%
100,00
71,40
66,70
 
Study
n
6
12
1
19
 
%
60,00
42,90
16,70
 
Research
n
8
23
4
35
 
%
80,00
82,10
66,70
 
Class preparation
n
1
7
0
8
 
%
10,00
25,00
0,00
 
Means for scientific and academic dissemination
n
2
7
2
11
 
%
20,00
25,00
33,30
 
Total
n
10
28
6
44

Table 5. Purpose of the use of ebooks by age group

 

All the groups studied coincide in noting that the purposes for which they least use ebooks are class preparation and as a means for scientific and academic dissemination. The latter presents another necessary transition: from using the ebook for research and obtaining information to choosing the ebook for publishing. Although this is not really the researchers', but the publishers' decision, the former has to have the willingness to try a new format, having to overcome reluctances that may exist.

Those surveyed in this study indicated that the medium or reading device which they most used for ebooks is the PC. That is the case of 95.5% of respondents, not discerning differences due to age. The second most frequent option is reading on paper, after printing the book, used by 36.4% of respondents. These are followed by reading on e-readers (15.9%), and further behind mobile phones and PDAs (2.3%).

Regarding the age variable, the results show that even if the three groups read mainly on the PC, the group of older users are those who choose reading on paper as a more frequent second option, after printing the ebook.

Analysing this question from the perspective of status the only noteworthy point is that predoctoral and university students use paper significantly more than researchers (71.4% and 30% respectively), which is particularly surprising keeping in mind that young people are better trained and are more intuitive with regard to electronic devices. Perhaps the use of technology is, in their case, more related to leisure activities; in this case, the lack of "electronic literacy" in the scientific/professional sphere is a notable finding.

Focusing on the reasons or driving motives of respondents for utilising ebooks, 90.7% used them on their own initiative, 16.3% were motivated by suggestions made by librarians, 11.6% were encouraged by colleagues and/or friends and 2.3% were motivated by suggestions made by teaching staff. The availability of ebooks in the BiqFr library was indicated in "other reasons". In relation to age or status, no differentiating patterns of use were observed.

As for the reasons for using ebooks, 66.7% of respondents said that it was because of the permanent access (24 hours, 7 days a week) of the resource. 59.5% stated that ebooks allow them to make searches or go to specific parts of the text. On the other hand, 52.4% use ebooks because of their large storage capacity, 47.6% because they can read them anywhere and 33% because they are easy to use.

While permanent access is a reason given by the majority of users, irrespective of their age, there are differences in the second reasons given for using ebooks. The group aged up to 35 years indicated that it uses ebooks for their large storage capacity, while the other age groups noted the possibility of browsing and being able go to specific parts of the text, that is, they give more importance to browsing and information recovery, so that they value more the use of applications of the electronic resource, something expected with advanced users of scientific information.

The answers concerning reasons for using ebooks also differ according to the status of users (closely related to age). In parallel with the previous results, predoctoral and university students mentioned all the options offered as advantages of ebooks, although they also highlighted their storage capacity and the possibility of reading them anywhere. On the other hand, established researchers (therefore a higher age range) value especially the permanent access of the resource and the possibility of browsing and going to specific parts of a text (see table 6).

 
Use of ebooks
Status
 
 
Predoc. and univ. students
Researchers
Total
Can be read anywhere
n
6
14
20
 
%
85,70
40,00
 
Easy to use
n
5
9
14
 
%
71,40
25,70
 
Permanent access
n
5
23
28
 
%
71,40
65,70
 
Permit browsing
n
5
20
25
 
%
71,40
57,10
 
Storage capacity
n
7
15
22
 
%
100,00
42,90
 
Total
n
7
35
42

Table 6. Motives for use of ebooks by status

 

In relation to the difficulties which prevent greater use of ebooks,(see table 6) 56.3% of those surveyed responded that it was the limited number of ebooks offered by publishers in their area of interest. 31.3% noted that the diverse formats of ebooks (PDF, EPUB, TXT, etc.), prevent greater use as on many occasions they are incompatible with the reading devices they have. 18.8% indicated that it is the continuous and changeable offer of devices on the market which refrains them from using ebooks habitually, as it is difficult to differentiate between the advantages and inconveniences of the devices already on the market with the new ones which appear. The instability associated with this changing development (and improvement) of ebook models becomes a disconcerting element for the user and is a factor which, to a certain extent, limits their utilization.

21.9% of respondents mentioned other reasons for the lack of use of ebooks, among which their high price stands out.

On analysing this question for the age and status groups, it was observed that there are no changes with respect to the general pattern described above for both researchers as well as students, in the three age group ranges.

27.3% of respondents expressed in the open response option not having any difficulty in using ebooks regularly.

As regards to whether the collection of ebooks which Biqfr offers covers the information needs of users, 47.7% of respondents said that the collection did cover their information needs, 38.6% responded sometimes, 6.8% that it did not and 6.8% of respondents did not answer this question.

Regarding responses by age group, the library covers the information needs of users up to 35 years of age in 66.7% of cases, and 57.7% in the following group (36-55 years). In the case of the 56 years and more group, 83.3% noted that their needs were covered sometimes. This result could be due to, at least, to two issues: firstly, they have greater experience and, consequently, are more demanding with respect to sources of information; secondly, is the well established habit of consulting other sources which perhaps provide similar scientific information, but through a more familiar medium. Differences related to status where not observed.

In relation to the final question on what future did they believe the ebook in the field of research would have, 55.72% of respondents did not answer this question, which constitutes a very high percentage, very symptomatic of the uncertainty surrounding this "new" resource. Among those who answered, 64.52% were optimistic with respect to the future of ebooks in the scientific and academic sphere, in the sense that, they will be a resource which will stabilise and will be accepted and widely used by the scientific community. They highlight the visibility, the promotion of their use and easy access as key aspects for the ebook to be consolidated.

Furthermore, 25.80% believe that in the coming years use of the ebook will increase, as happened with scientific journals and will probably be due, according to respondents, to the advantages that this format offers (availability, ease of use, etc.).

Finally, 3.23% of respondents stated that they did not clearly know what the future of ebooks will be in the scientific and academic sphere, and that its success will depend, at least in part, on how the ebook adapts to the real necessities of scientific information. On the other hand, 6.45% have a negative view of the future for this electronic resource, as they fear that ebooks cannot update themselves in the same way as electronic journals and this fact plays a very important part in their field.

 

5 Discussion

This study shows, as does other research (Rowlands et al., 2007; Springer, 2009; JISC 2008; JISC, 2009) carried out on users of ebooks in university and research libraries, that gradually the use of this electronic resource is increasing in academic and scientific environments, as it is recognized "that ebooks have great potential in the future of teaching and research" (Alonso, Cordón and Gómez, 2011); nevertheless, although the results of this study indicate that 63% of users of Biqfr use ebooks, conservative attitudes towards this electronic resource still persist.

According to the age ranges of the surveyed users, it was observed, as expected, that age is a factor that conditions the usage of ebooks. Younger and middle aged users are those who make the most use of this electronic resource, in contrast to older users who use it to a lesser extent; this coincides with the result obtained in Rowland's study in which it is noted that in the age range from 17 to 35 years greater use of ebooks is found (Rowlands et al., 2007). The digital culture of younger groups undoubtedly favours the more natural adoption of ebooks as an additional information resource. However, the implementation of specific training campaigns addressed at older users should not be ruled out, as despite their acquired and established habits, and the attachment to the printed book, ebooks can have other uses, which are very practical for researchers, such as undeniably, their reading, consultation and portability advantages. Similarly to what is happening in the case of reading fiction literature on e-readers among the elderly population, which is extending due to its advantages, such as legibility (larger fonts, for example), it could be possible to achieve, by means of an adequate induction, a greater acceptance of the ebook among the research community in the older age range group.

The motives to use ebooks are as important as those to not use them. This study intended to identify these reasons and to do so a specific question was included directed at users who had never utilized ebooks. The main reasons they gave were that the information needed could be found from other sources, that reading books on a screen is uncomfortable and that they have a lack of knowledge of ebooks. This reflects that in this group users have a very conservative attitude, as they prefer to continue using their traditional resources for searching information and the reason they give for not using ebooks is their own lack of knowledge of this electronic resource, which shows that the level of awareness of ebooks is still limited (Cordón, Alonso and Martín, 2010). Nevertheless, it is very probable that the tendency will change and what will happen is that, as another study suggested regarding users that are also reluctant to use ebooks, they "might be persuaded by emerging technologies" (Shrimplin et al., 2011), but it is necessary to go through a transition phase that allows us to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the different possibilities that ebooks have to offer (Bennett and Labdoni, 2005). In any case, these data indicate that it is necessary for librarians to provide special training to users; they should not limit themselves to explaining the use of ebooks, but they should also encourage their utilization.

The users surveyed utilize this electronic resource as a tool and an additional information source which benefits the work and research they carry out. This result is similar to that obtained in the studies of Shelburne (2009), Springer (2009) and JISC (2009) which found that "electronic reference books can be easier to navigate and search than their printed counterparts, making them favored among student and academic researchers" (Library Journal, 2010). This is, without doubt, the type of document which seems most likely to become established in ebook format. The ease of updating reference works, which are ever changing by nature, will make publishers move towards this type of electronic publishing which, furthermore, readers will appreciate precisely because of the easiness of consultation. The recent example of the Encyclopaedia Britannica is very enlightening, as it has stopped publishing its printed version and is fully dedicated to the digital format.

The context and purpose for which the book is used decides the format chosen. In the field of research, it is important to find quickly and with precision what is being searched, and thus "eBooks are best suited for research purposes or in a search environment where the user needs to locate specific information" (Springer, 2009); as a consequence, the format in which the information needed is presented is immaterial. In addition, it is also likely that users will find it easy to incorporate this work tool, because they have long experience in the use of other electronic resources when searching for information.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to observe that this researcher group has limited use of ebooks as a medium of scientific and academic dissemination. This is possibly due to the still short life span of the ebook, which is timidly penetrating the academic world, mainly for reading and consultation, but which has still to be incorporated into other levels such as publication and scientific evaluation. Authors must know more about how to publish in this format, which publishers will allow this format of publication or how authors' rights are protected. Probably in the medium and long term, these users will see also in the ebook a medium of scientific and academic dissemination for their research results

Concerning the devices normally used by these users to read ebooks, the results of this study indicate that the PC is the device most preferred, even though reading long electronic texts on a screen which emits light is not very ergonomic. This result concurs with the survey made by the Library Journal where the users surveyed also read ebooks on the PC (Library Journal, 2010) as well as the results obtained through the surveys carried out by JISC. Certain platforms where ebooks are found present many access barriers (JISC, 2009). Moreover, it is likely that the reading of ebooks on the PC reflects the habit inherited from reading electronic journals, which users try to transfer to ebooks. Also it seems there are problems with licences that could be impeding the download of ebooks to certain readers, which undoubtedly greatly limits the use of this resource and is a practice contrary to the nature of the product.

In this study, all the groups analysed read ebooks on a PC. This result differs from that found in the survey of users made in 2008 by JISC, which concluded that older users were less inclined to read on the screen (Hérnandez, Nicholas and Rowland, 2009). Nevertheless, there have been coincidences with results from the second survey carried out by JISC, where similar behaviour was observed (JIS, 2009).

Also in this study by JISC, users more than 56 years old showed disinterest in reading on the screen; on the other hand it was the youngest and middle-aged users who responded that they read printed ebooks, and this result coincides with other research which suggests that younger and middle-aged users print ebooks to read them (Rowlands et al., 2007). Younger groups have an extraordinary mastery over the technology, which prevents thinking that it might be a technological barrier that stops them from consulting ebooks. Rather, it could be the inability of downloading ebooks to e-readers (because of the licence terms) or simply, little practice in the use of sources of scientific information for research.

Another interesting result is that few users use e-readers, even though in theory they are the devices most appropriate for reading ebooks. It does not seem that it is the price of the e-readers – in constant decline – which could be the barrier to their use, but rather the incompatibility that often exists between formats of ebooks that libraries and different e-readers offer (Foasberg, 2011).

With regard to the reasons that led the users surveyed to use ebooks, the researchers' own initiative stands out, which shows their interest and predisposition towards new formats for searching information, exploiting in this way the electronic resources at their disposal, although at times the profile seems more conservative. Secondly they are motivated by suggestions made by librarians, which shows the importance that these professionals play in the process of adaptation of users towards new resources in libraries. This result concurs with the study carried out in the Department of Chemistry and Biology at Indiana University, which found that all the marketing tools related to ebooks used by libraries contribute to giving visibility to this electronic resource among users (Zhang and Beckman, 2011).

The main reason for using ebooks is their permanent access which coincides with the results obtained by other studies (JISC, 2009; Springer, 2009; Zhang and Beckman, 2011; Bierman, Ortega and Rupp-Serrano, 2010; Shelburne, 2009).

On the other hand, it is interesting to see that the main difficulty that the users surveyed have is the limited availability of ebooks offered by publishers which are of interest to them; it seems clear that publishers should increase their offer of content, which would boost the use of this electronic resource. At the same time, publishers do not seem decided about increasing their investment in digital editions while consumption is not growing (Romero-Otero and Giménez-Toledo, 2012).

Users in this survey did not mention the reading of ebooks on screen as the greatest difficulty, which differs from various previous studies (Hérnandez, Nicholas and Rowland, 2009; Zhang and Beckman, 2011; Springer, 2009; Shelburne, 2009).

Finally, as regards to the future of the ebook in the area of research, the response of 44.28% of users was obtained: the majority showed an optimistic attitude as they considered that the advantages the ebook offers make it a useful work tool when searching for information. The high percentage (55.72%) of users that did not respond perhaps can be explained because of a lack of questioning or refection on the subject or a lack of information on the variables that would allow them to discern a future with greater or lesser clarity. Undoubtedly, it is more practical and realistic to make a forecast about the future of the ebook from the position of the publishers or librarians who have more informative elements to form an opinion on the subject. It is not uncommon, therefore, that it is in the framework of the international book fairs where predictions on the development of the ebook are published which serve as a barometer for the sector.

 

6 Acknowledgements

  1. The authors wish to thank the users participating in the study, for their willingness and information provided, and also the Library of the Institute of Physical Chemistry "Rocasolano" (Biqfr).

  2. This work has been carried out thanks to the award of a grant/ pre-doctoral contract within the framework of the Junta para la Ampliación de Estudios (JAE) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).
 

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Received: 19/02/2013. Accepted: 13/07/2013.

Recommended citation

Romero Otero, Irene Sofía; Iglesias Fernández, Esperanza; Giménez Toledo, Elea (2013). "Use, acceptance and expectations for the ebook in a research library". BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació, núm. 31 (desembre) . <http://bid.ub.edu/en/31/romero3.htm>. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1344/BiD2014.31.15 [Consulta: 19-08-2017].