Lunch & Learn: Jane Holmquist on e-books versus p-books at Princeton Libraries

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Lunch & Learn logo

Jane Holmquist, a Princeton Librarian specializing in Astrophysics at the Peter B. Lewis Science Library, talked to the Lunch & Learn audience for the premiere of the Spring 2013 season of Lunch & Learn. She wanted to discuss the issues surrounding the purchase, selection and distribution of books for Princeton Libraries, patron wants, and the future of books in academic libraries. She focused mostly on the issue of choosing electronic books (e-books) or print books (p-books) and the pros and cons of each depending on the particular academic patron group.

Holmquist started with the iClicker immediate response feedback system to ask several questions to find the audience’s demographics, experience, and opinions before moving into her discussion and demonstration. She asked questions about occupation, gender, generation, device ownership, e-book usage, downloading practices, library visitation, book format preference, and a final prediction question about when libraries might only buy e-books.

She also made a point of giving both a digital feedback tool in the clickers and note cards at each seat to write questions, reflecting her unbiased support of both digital and analog methods.

She spoke about the ideology behind the Peter B. Lewis Science Library, where most spaces have no print books, wireless network activity is omnipresent, and no computers exist in study spaces, and students are encouraged to bring their own devices.

Holmquist then described some of the various situations and patron concerns created by e-book vendors and their distribution methods. For instance, some patrons want a print version of a book, but only the electronic version is available. (O’Reilly/Safari books) For example, some patrons want to save an e-book to their iPad for offline consumption, but that option is not always available. (Safari books requires a personal account for this.) Sometimes an e-book is available, but only 60 pages can be downloaded at a time. (ebrary, adobe digital editions) In some cases, only 1 page may be printed at a time. In other cases, the library has an e-book of a journal but the patron can download only individual articles (Cambridge, CJO) or individual chapters (SpringerLink).

She said that an ideal situation for course reserves is to have a combination of both print book and e-book versions. However, this is potentially very expensive as a solution. Also, eBooks are distributed as either MUPO (multi-user) or SUPO (single-user), and of course, MUPO is always preferred, but not always available or affordable.

In a live demonstration given on the iPad, the following resources were demonstrated.

Safari Books online. (link to Safari’s Android Development collection) “Safari Books Online is the premier on-demand digital library providing over 23102 technology, digital media, and business books and videos online to academic and library users.” (Safari Books Online)

ebrary. (link to collections) Contains an extensive collection of ebooks on the following topics: “Agriculture, Auxiliary Sciences of History, Bibliography, Library Science, Information Resources (General), Education, Fine Arts, General Works, Geography, Anthropology, Recreation, History (General) and History of Europe, History: America, Language and Literature, Law, Medicine, Military Science, Music and Books on Music, Naval Science, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, Political Science, Science, Social Sciences, Technology” (ebrary)

SpringerLink (link to physics and astronomy collection) This service has millions of items in the following topic areas: Biomedical and Life Sciences (1,200,267), Medicine (1,194,910), Chemistry and Materials Science (825,929), Physics and Astronomy (543,268), Computer Science (474,917), Mathematics and Statistics (365,477), Earth and Environmental Science (334,561), Engineering (322,607) (Springer)

In order to see the presentation that Holmquist gave before her iPad demo, please watch the following video.

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