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E-books


Study: Assessing the Value of E-Books to Academic Libraries and Users


Purpose statement:  
This project examined the value of e-books to library users as well as the value of e-books to libraries.

Goals:
Establish a benchmark for e-book value; determine the cost/use ratio of ebooks at the UIUC library and verify if the cost-per-use of UIUC e-books matches the “value” that UIUC e-book users assigned when surveyed in an Elsevier e-book study.

Investigators:
Paula Kaufman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Tina Chrzastowski, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Lynn Wiley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Methods:

Quantitative Methodology (E-book Use at UIUC):
E-book use data were collected by using COUNTER statistics provided by e-book publishers.  For the purpose of this study, a "use" of an e-book was counted when a user successfully viewed or downloaded a section (generally by chapter) of an e-book through the vendor's portal.  This definition of use follows COUNTER Book Report 2 (Number of Successful Section Requests by Month and Title) for most vendors.  Of the vendors for which we could get information, 75% used COUNTER-compliant statistics; however, only 82% (33 of 40) of e-book publishers were able to provide use data, resulting in an undercounting of e-book use.

Qualitative Methodology (Elsevier Survey of UIUC E-book Users):
After an initial questionnaire which established users’ familiarity with and previous use of e-books, participants were asked to conduct one of their normal searches for information in their discipline on the Elsevier e-book platform.  Following each search, and after reading some portion of an Elsevier e-book, a logbook diary entry was completed for each e-book interaction.  The study asked researchers to fill out logbook diaries for up to four Elsevier e-books, and participants were given up to four weeks to complete the diaries.  After their last logbook diary was completed, a final questionnaire was administered.  Three questions concerning value were posed; researchers were asked to rank the value of each e-book used on a 1-10 scale, they were asked to categorize each e-book viewed on a scale from “could have done without” to “need to have,” and finally they were asked to rank value on a seven-point scale, from “extremely valuable” to “not at all valuable.”

Key variables of interest:
Longitudinal use of e-books at UIUC; Longitudinal cost-per-use of e-books at UIUC; Rankings of e-book value to UIUC users.

Calculator:
Basic cost/use calculations were used for the value of e-books to libraries.  These included cost-per-year divided by use-per-year; annual cost-per-ebook was calculated by taking the annual cost of e-books to the library and dividing that number by the number of e-books purchased that year.  This number will vary considerably per year as e-books are often purchased in bulk at the year’s end and reflect the fluctuations in publisher discounts and numbers of e-books available in each package each year.

The calculator for the Elsevier e-book study (which measured the value of e-books to users) is qualitative and used a gradated scale from 1-10 for users to choose the level of value they assigned to each e-book they used/read.

Another important calculator is the previous work done by Courant and Nielsen (p. 101).* Their research shows that there are long- and short-term savings to be had by purchasing e-books rather than p-books, and that in comparing formats, many additional savings occur when selecting an electronic format over print format.

Applicability:
This study may apply to other large academic libraries that have collected and analyzed local e-book use and cost data, or those who plan to do so.
 
Utility:
Utility in this study may come from the data showing e-book use and cost-per-use at the UIUC library.  Comparative data in this area are not readily available.  Another utility is the positive outcome of e-book users’ valuation of ebooks. These data may provide confidence to collection managers to proceed with less caution when deciding between e-book and p-book formats.

Used/tested:
This study was only conducted at UIUC; not used or tested elsewhere.

Implementations/Impact:
Local use and cost/use data have been shared with UIUC collection managers; the impact might be evident in the FY2012 e-book cost/use data which may show increased numbers in both e-books purchased and use of all UIUC-licensed e-books.

Questionnaire(s):
ROI Protocol for Focus Groups and Logbook Study (Students)
ROI Protocol for Interviews and Logbook Study (Researchers)
ROI Protocol for Interviews and Logbook Study (University Teachers)



*Courant, Paul N. and Matthew “Buzzy” Nielsen.  “On the Cost of Keeping a Book.”  In: The Idea of Order: Transforming Research Collections for 21st Century Scholarship.  Council     on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Washington, D.C.  Accessed online at: http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub147/pub147.pdf


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