To answer a myriad of questions surrounding ebook adoption in the humanities, a multi-faceted research project, funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (via “LibValue,” http://libvalue.cci.utk.edu/
) was undertaken at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library (UIUC). The study had two components. First, data were collected from ebook, patron-driven acquisition (PDA) in humanities subject areas via both STL (short term loan) and purchase-on- demand collection use through Ebrary. In some disciplines, Oxford University Press humanities ebooks were also purchased and monitored for use. Second, a survey was conducted of humanities faculty and graduate students from the same humanities disciplines as the PDA study: architecture, art, art history, classics, music and religion/theology.
Also pertinent to the study were the availability and use of corresponding print books at UIUC and the factors that determine why a humanities scholar would choose either an ebook or a pbook (print book). The survey asked scholars to comment on their view of the adoption of ebooks in the humanities, the value they determine or receive from the use of ebooks, their familiarity with various ebook platforms, the role of print books in an e-future, and when or why they would choose to use an ebook over a pbook.
Results show that most respondents (about 80% of whom were graduate students/ 20% faculty) had used ebooks before the study and most agreed that ebooks are easy to use and to access; almost 90% believe that ebooks should have the capability for some type of download. Only 17% of respondents said that over 50% of their research currently involves the use of ebooks; the most important “value” the humanists associated with ebooks was 24/7 accessibility. While the study’s outcomes focus on assessment of the humanist’s perception and use of ebooks, assessment of the library’s role in this evolution is also an important factor.
Library assessment for this project focused on performance and use of collections (both e and p), and included data by call number/subject, publisher and price. The assessment also included the availability and accessibility of both e and p books. The data show that although humanists may lag behind other disciplines in incorporating ebooks into their scholarly research, most have positive outlooks about ebook adoption and ask that more ebooks be made available to them in their humanities disciplines.