Utility or device: what drives eBook use and acceptance?

Conventional wisdom holds that the availability of eBooks and their inherent utility – full text searchability, ease of access, etc. – are what drive use and acceptance. But are these the only factors behind the rate of adoption of eBooks at undergraduate universities?

A new Springer white paper by Deborah Lenares of the Margaret Clapp Library at Wellesley College, and Steven Smith, formerly of Wellesley College and now Head of Collection Management at Boston University Libraries, draws on past studies and a new survey of users at Wellesley College to uncover some interesting insights for undergraduate librarians and institutions. The white paper is available both online, and will be distributed at this year’s Electronic Resources and Libraries (ER&L) Conference in Austin, TX.

The results in this most recent survey revealed that 73 percent of faculty and 70 percent of students reported having used an eBook. What’s more, is that in comparing this against 2007 Wellesley-use data, the number of unique titles that were accessed jumped by 40 percent. While this may be due to the increased availability of eBooks, total pages viewed increased by 184 percent, and surprisingly, the number of pages printed dropped by 11 percent. However, this new survey indicates that the increased adoption of eBooks as a result of availability and convenience is only part of the story.

The study also reveals that faculty are more likely to own, or plan to purchase, a reading device for eBooks. Nearly half (45 percent) of student responders indicated that they have no plans to purchase a reading device. Furthermore, those who own a device (i.e. faculty) are far more likely than those who do not to read at least a full chapter from, if not an entire eBook. This data seems to support the idea that wider device ownership or usage could unlock a much larger adoption of eBooks.

The authors conclude, “Results from the survey seem to show that faculty have a slightly higher acceptance of eBooks, and students a slightly higher preference for print books. We also find that faculty at Wellesley are much more likely than students to either own or plan to purchase a mobile device particularly tablets. By analyzing responses from those who own or plan to purchase a mobile device we can further clarify this difference in format preference.”

For the full text or more information on this and other Springer white papers, visit Springer’s website, or speak with a Springer representative at the Vendor Reception and Exhibit of the 2013 ER&L Conference.