Print or Electronic Books? That is the question!

"Let me see, let me see; is not the leaf turn'd down Where I left reading? Here it is, I think."

Well actually, there really isn’t any question at all. In my humble opinion, the advantages of owning an electronic version of a book instead of a print copy far outweigh the disadvantages. In a perfect world, without budgetary restrictions, we would purchase a print version and an electronic version of every title we select for the library. We would also have a copy of every book ever published if we lived in that world! Since this isn’t the case, librarians are frequently faced with the decision of which format to buy. Sometimes there is no choice because no electronic version is available, however, increasingly an electronic version is available for purchase.

Based on my experience helping folks at our service desk, some people prefer reading in print, while for others, if it’s not online it’s as if it doesn’t exist. Although, I have noticed that when the print copy isn’t available people are generally very happy to have access to an electronic version. Often, especially during paper time, scholars just need to access a chapter, a section of a book, or to verify the pagination for a citation, all of which can be done remotely from home, which is particularly great in the middle of winter! For the record, I prefer reading books in print, especially fiction, however, I have read many eBooks on my Kobo and iPad and have become accustomed to this as well.

There are a variety of technical factors that can limit access to eBooks. Sometimes these issues can discourage people from trying to access or download eBooks after a negative first experience. Many of these access issues are related to digital rights management (DRM). Even our DRM protected eBooks are generally easy to access and download, once you follow the instructions and figure out how they work. After that, they are really quite simple to use. Many of our eBooks have no DRM, and allow for unlimited viewing and downloading, which is like having as many copies as you need for your clientele at any given time. As far as I’m concerned, it’s really this last point that gives eBooks the edge over print. Also, the majority of our students now own mobile technology, such as an eBook reader or tablet, which allows them to take advantage of our incredible and ever expanding eBook collection.

Regardless of how you feel about eBooks versus print books, both formats will be essential parts of the collection in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library for the foreseeable future.

Let us know what you think. Do you prefer reading eBooks or Print? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of both formats?

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