E-books and students: an uneasy relationship?

As the Liaison Librarian for Pharmacy, I am keen to ensure that the library collection meets the needs of our Pharmacy students. However, these are large cohorts, and it is not possible to provide a copy for each student. To meet the demand for core textbooks, we have therefore invested in significantly expanding our Pharmacy e-book collection over the past few years. We have acquired an electronic version for each book on the students’ reading lists for which there is one available.

An e-reader between paper books

Image by Maximilian Schönherr

However, usage statistics have shown that these are not heavily used. In a research project that I will be carrying out in the upcoming academic year, I will investigate the barriers to e-books usage, and discuss the ways in which these may be overcome. I believe e-books offer a number of significant advantages, and I am hoping to make students more aware of them by promoting e-books and demonstrating how to make the most of them.

Did you know, for example, that you can bookmark pages, add your own notes to e-books and save them, and that you can directly copy or export the reference to your bibliography? You can also go straight into chapters and subchapters from a clickable table of contents, and you can search for words in the texts, so that you can locate that half-remembered quote much more quickly. Furthermore, most publishers allow you to download and print part of the book, and some e-books are accessible through e-book readers and other mobile devices.

And of course, you don’t have to come to the library to read an e-book – they are available off-campus as well. All e-books that the library has purchased can be found on the library catalogue, Enterprise. Narrow down your search to “access: online” and “format: book” to view all e-books that match your search.

I am interested to hear what your experiences with e-books are. Have you used them? What features did you like or dislike? How does reading an e-book compare to reading a print copy? If you haven’t used an e-book yet, are there any particular reasons why you haven’t?

Erika Delbecque
Liaison Librarian for Pharmacy, Mathematics and Statistics
University of Reading Library

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