VOLUME 14 NUMBER 1
FALL 2012

E-Book Survey and Faculty Focus Group Results

Last spring, Boston College faculty and a randomly-selected set of undergraduate and graduate students were invited to take a survey on e-books in the Boston College Libraries. This survey and the follow-up focus groups, all conducted with the help of Institutional Research, Planning & Assessment (IRPA), are part of the Libraries' ongoing efforts to learn more about your needs/wishes for e-books here at BC. Based on the high survey participation rate of 22% (152 faculty (20% of full-time faculty)), 123 graduate students (29% of sample surveyed) and 210 undergraduates (20% of sample surveyed), it's clear that there is great interest in this subject. Many respondents also volunteered to participate in follow-up focus groups.

So, what did we learn? Here is a quick summary of some of the more interesting findings:

  • Philosophy, Theology, and the School of Theology and Ministry faculty respondents are the heaviest users of e-books (68%), followed by faculty respondents in the other Humanities (54%).
  • Of those not using e-books (in all groups), the predominant reason appears to be lack of awareness that the BC libraries are collecting e-books (faculty - 68%, graduate students - 82%, undergraduate students - 82%).
  • Of those faculty using e-books at BC, 96% find them using the library system (formerly Quest, now, Holmes).
Faculty Graduate Students Undergraduate Students
Have you ever accessed e-books through the Boston College Libraries? Yes - 37% Yes - 34% Yes - 25%
Have you ever used e-books from sources other than BC? Yes - 66% (purchased or rented from a commercial site) and 21% (borrowed from a public library) Yes - 75% (purchased or rented from a commercial site) and 24% (borrowed from a public library) Yes - 69% (purchased or rented from a commercial site) and 13% (borrowed from a public library)
What would encourage you to use e-books at BC? (See below) Ability to download e-books to my computer or other device - 59%; followed by Ease of Use and Ability to Annotate and Ability to Print (tied) Ability to download e-books to my computer or other device - 20%; followed closely by Ability to Annotate and Ability to Print Ability to download e-books to my computer or other device - 23%; not far behind: Ease of Use and Ability to Print
Do you own or have access to an e-book reader? Yes - 72% (Kindle, followed closely by iPad) Yes - 66% (Kindle, 3X more popular than next, iPad) Yes - 54% (Kindle, twice as common as next, Nook and iPad)

Based on this feedback, here are some things that we'd like you to know:

We still buy many print books, but we also have lots of e-books, and the numbers keep growing!
Here are examples of e-book collections the Library has added recently. Earlier this fall, we started adding Project Muse E-books: these are the e-books published by the 70+ university presses included in the UPCC (formerly the University Press e-book Consortium (UPeC)), in collaboration with Project Muse. And, thanks to the very generous gift of Dr. Larry Clifford honoring the late Marilyn Grant, BC Chemistry Librarian (1971 - 2003), we have added the full set of Royal Society of Chemistry e-books for organic chemistry 2000 - 2010 as the Marilyn Grant Memorial Gift Collection.

Downloading ... for PDF's it's easy ... and for Pleasure Reading, try OverDrive
Virtually all of our e-book collections provide for downloading of chapters (usually in PDF). Once you've downloaded the file, you can store it for reference at any time later. Some of our collections allow downloading of the complete text; for example, the 243 titles in our 2011 Palgrave Connect collections in Education, Literature and Religion/Philosophy can all be downloaded in toto in either PDF or EPUB formats. And, if you're looking for pleasure reading books to download to your Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc., try out BC's OverDrive service. Scholarly publishers, on the other hand, have been slow to offer full-content downloading, placing more stringent "digital rights management" on their titles. The Boston College Libraries are working with other libraries in the Boston Library Consortium to advocate for licenses that allow for broad usage rights including copying, printing, and multiple users.

Printing
With only rare exceptions (ACLS Humanities E-Books is one), all of our e-book providers allow printing of multiple pages during a single session - ebrary, for example, with very few publisher-based exceptions, allows printing of 100 pages, or a full-length chapter, whichever is longer. With EBSCOHost, you can print 60 pages, then return later during a second session and print more, if needed.

Annotating
We know that the ability to annotate PDF documents is an essential requirement for greater use of e-books by faculty and graduate students. Indeed, many of our e-book platforms allow users to highlight and even keep notes on the e-books that they're reading. Both the ebrary and EBSCOHost e-book platforms support direct note-taking and highlighting for users who have signed into their personal accounts. For e-book platforms where this is not a built-in feature, Adobe Reader 9 and higher supports annotation of PDF documents, as does the built-in Preview for Mac OS X. This is also easily done on the iPad, for those reading there. See the E-Books at Boston College Libguide for more information and more annotation software options.

If you would like to know more about our findings, or give added feedback on e-books here at Boston College, please contact either your subject liaison or email Sally Wyman, Chair, Boston College Libraries E-Books Task Force.

Sally Wyman
Collection Development Librarian, O'Neill Library