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Ebooks set to overtake print at the Library

By Curtin Library 15 May 2019 News & events 3 Comments »

Electronic books (ebooks) have been a boon to libraries and their clients in many different ways. Ebooks can be read anywhere and anytime – as long as there’s an internet connection – which offers clients increased flexibility for their research and studies. Typically, more than one person can read an ebook at any one time, eliminating waiting periods for limited copies of print publications. Client demand for ebooks is high, and Curtin University Library is steadily increasing its collection, while reducing its number of print publications.

Ebooks can be read anywhere and anytime.

At the end of 2018 Curtin University Library held 430,410 print book titles.  The number of electronic book titles available to Curtin clients was slightly greater at 451,686.  Fifty-one percent of the Library’s book holdings are thus now electronic.  As we continue to buy more new ebooks than print, and to retire superseded print textbooks and reference works, the proportion of electronic to print books in the Library’s collection is set to increase rapidly.

While print books have to be picked up or read in one of the Library’s physical locations and can only be read by one person at a time, electronic books can be accessed anywhere there is an internet connection, and so are immediately available to all Curtin clients whether based in Perth or elsewhere in Western Australia or at any location throughout the world, and at all times of the day and night, from their laptop or personal device.  Moreover, most of the Library’s electronic books are available simultaneously to more than one reader.

A look at the usage figures suggests that Curtin staff and students greatly value the flexibility of our ebook offerings.  Use of print books from the Library’s collections has dropped significantly over the last few years.  In 2014 over 150,000 physical items were borrowed or renewed; in 2018 the equivalent figure was less than half this at 74,000.

By contrast, the consultation of electronic books increased dramatically.  In 2014 the number of uses registered on our most popular ebook platform ProQuest Ebook Central alone was 304,760.  By 2018 this had reached 488,713, representing over 6 million pages viewed, printed or downloaded.  Ebook Central currently provides access to 187, 804 books.

(The fall in usage in 2015 was caused by the need to cancel one particular ebook subscription package for budgetary reasons.  This package was reinstated towards the end of 2018, so it can be expected that usage will increase significantly in 2019.)

The most used subject area for ProQuest Ebooks is Education, followed by Social Science, Medicine, Business/Management and Psychology.

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  1. Karuna Santosa May 16, 2019 9:39am

    Not being able to access paper text books from the library can be a problem for students who are from a LSES who can’t afford to buy or pay to hire the book (also some text books are hard to find cheap second hand). You need to have an electronic device you can take with you to and from uni and from class to class when you have e-books. The electronic device has to be of high quality to have a long battery life. Students often use text books from class to class and short breaks in between class. A lot of electronic devices go flat after only a few hours. There are no charging points in lectures and rarely in tutorial rooms. This means no text book access in the second half of the day as the device goes flat (with little time to charge, due to not long enough breaks). Also text book e-books in the library often only allow downloads for 7 days. This means additional cost, as you have to use internet to read the text book. At home some students do not have unlimited internet data. This because very expensive. Paper text books DONT COST MONEY TO READ. I recommend that the library plays an active role in suggesting to the university to develop more power charger stations be allocated on desks in tutorial and lecture rooms. The library should also negotiate with publishers to allow for longer periods of download (MUCH MORE THAN 7 DAYS) on ebooks which a textbooks required for Units IF you ARE reducing paper books which a textbooks required for units. Please dont disadvantage students from LSES – things are already SO VERY DIFFICULT. Thanks for your time.

    • Helena Joyce May 20, 2019 2:52pm

      I agree with Karuna, wholeheartedly, the expectations of the university that all students have their own electronic devices, with 24/7 access to wifi, reminds me of Marie Antoinette’s supposed quote, “If they are hungry, let them eat cake!” We are not all like the “average student”, whoever that may be. Please don’t forget those who don’t have a rich Mummy & Daddy to pay for “stuff”, some of us have to support ourselves.
      Thank you.

  2. Curtin Library May 17, 2019 9:02am

    Thank you for your comments. This is useful information to help us with developing Library services. While we are working with publishers to improve the experience of electronic textbooks for students, I appreciate that there is still some way to go, and we are continuing also to provide print copies of textbooks in the Library’s High Demand collection. On the question of power, the Robertson Library refurbishment project which is due to begin later this year will make significant improvements to the Library’s infrastructure. We will also forward your concerns about power in other campus spaces to University Properties for consideration.

    David Wells
    Curtin Library