Ebooks and the academic library:
: their usage and effect

  • Louisa Jayne Brown

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


This dissertation aims to examine the usage of ebooks in academic libraries and their effects on both the library and its users. It investigates the influence they can have on library acquisition policies and procedures and, in light of their usage, it examines the importance of ebook promotion. Potential problems with regard to access and how the library can overcome issues concerned with licensing agreements are also considered.

The objectives of the dissertation are four-fold:
•To establish the extent to which ebooks are used in academic libraries
•To examine how libraries have adapted to selecting and acquiring ebooks and how user opinion and usage can influence this
•To determine how academic libraries promote ebooks and what influence this can have on their usage
• To investigate the problems arising with regard to access and publisher’s agreements and establish how this can affect both the selection and usage of ebooks

The dissertation is qualitative and based on primary research gathered from both students of the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education and the ebook project coordinator. A survey of all matriculated Faculty students was undertaken to obtain current opinion on ebooks. In conjunction with this, an interview was conducted with the ebook project coordinator. Secondary sources, such as data gathered on ebook usage by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the ebrary survey were also examined. The dissertation follows a thematic approach where each of the three key areas – usage, acquisition and promotion - are discussed individually as self-contained units. Each unit contains a literature review which reflects current opinion on ebooks from the field.

The data gathered from the questionnaire indicated that whilst many Faculty of Education students are using ebooks, their preference is for the printed book. The results indicated that the nature of some courses forces students into using ebooks as they are unable to easily visit the physical library. Ebooks are not yet regarded as the main point of information, but are instead seen as an accompaniment to existing resources and are often only used when print copies are unavailable.

The interview demonstrated sound reasons as to why ebooks were incorporated into Cambridge University library collections and recognised that they can have considerable effects on the acquisition and selection of material within an academic library. It made it evident that promotion is vital in ensuring an acceptable level of usage.

In conclusion, it appears that whilst ebooks have the ability to influence and improve certain library policies and practices and offer a more satisfactory source from which the student locates information, they are not yet achieving this potential. A strong preference for the printed word remains with many users feeling forced into using the electronic counterpart due to the distance they live from campus resources
Date of Award2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorDavid Ellis (Supervisor)

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