students, faculty experimenting with e-books through new library
Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations
- Some best-selling authors may rush into electronic publishing
with their latest thrillers, but academic institutions such
as the University of California, Berkeley, are cautiously
investigating the world of e-books.
library began a modest experiment with electronic books almost
a year ago, spending about $50,000 to pick 835 titles mainly
from the social sciences and to make them available online
to any UC Berkeley student or faculty or staff member with
a library card and a personal computer.
collection, chosen from about 15,000 titles available through
a company called NetLibrary, is meager compared to the 9 million
volumes UC Berkeley keeps on its library shelves. But the
electronic project is viewed as a necessary and important
step in keeping current with information as well as with the
modes of its delivery.
has learned a lot about e-books, and (the librarians) learned
about reader behavior, such as that they are intrigued, but
not ready to give up print," said project leader Milton Ternberg,
a librarian at the Thomas J. Long Business Library at UC Berkeley's
Haas School of Business.
the program "very successful."
the "bestsellers" in UC Berkeley's experiment are titles in
economics, business and the Internet. Economics and business
together scored 777 "hits" between April 2000 and late January
of this year, according to tallies for the campus's special
electronic titles. The books are accessible online day or
night to UC Berkeley users who connect to the campus network
from work, labs, libraries, laptops, home offices, dorm rooms,
apartments or fraternities and sororities.
popularity are sociology books with 623 hits, then political
science with 334 and anthropology with 276.
recording the most visits - 63 - so far is "Inventing the
Internet," followed by "Borders in Cyberspace" and "Game Theory."
Rounding out the top five: "Pop Internationalism" and "101
More Best Resumes."
said all the books might be more popular if more people knew
about them. Despite efforts to publicize the program on library
Web sites and e-mailings to targeted campus audiences, Ternberg
and others said many people still are learning about e-books.
Library on campus offers a drop-in course, "Finding Books,"
that includes instruction about the NetLibrary "self-service"
seem very interested to learn that we have electronic books
as part of the library's collection," said Aija Kanbergs,
an assistant at UC Berkeley's Teaching Library. "I think some
students use it, especially when our own paper copies of the
book are checked out."
one anthropology graduate student doing fieldwork in Cuba
and missing the UC Berkeley library was enthusiastic about
the possibility of having the library with her in the field,"
said Suzanne Calpestri, librarian for the George and Mary
Foster Anthropology Library. "Other students were enthusiastic
about being able to search across the full text of many titles
and looked forward to having more online."
see benefits for the electronic monograph with their research,
although they don't see it as a permanent replacement for
the traditional paper library, said Calpestri, a member of
the group evaluating the project.
the advantages is the speed of locating citations in books,
having the information immediately accessible on a desktop
computer, and easily printed. Users have credited an online
review of an electronic book with helping them decide whether
to walk or drive to the library later to pick up the hard
about the project: only one person can check out, or view,
an e-book at a time, some users find it annoying that usage
is tracked, and the software for reading a text online doesn't
make for a very comfortable experience. Books also can be
kept for just one day.
the biggest drawbacks is price. The NetLibrary e-book costs
the same as a hardback version, plus a sliding fee to make
it available for viewing or checkout. The electronic book
costs 15 percent of the purchase cost for the first year.
After that, the cost declines all the way to 3 percent in
the sixth year. Or, an institution can pay the purchase price
- plus 50 percent of that price tag - to have the book available
a political science and sociology librarian who is working
with Ternberg to analyze UC Berkeley's e-book experiment,
said changes in this field are immense and constant.
UC Berkeley associate university library and director of collections,
said in a recent report that digital transformation of printed
resources so far is uneven and is "being embraced unequally
by scholars, of varying experience and proclivities, within
As UC Berkeley
and other institutions - UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara,
San Francisco Public Library and Oakland Public Library -
experiment with the e-book, none plans to stop buying paper
versions, thus escalating budget demands and at least somewhat
constricting the variety of materials ultimately available.
the delivery of information resources (texts, images, sound,
video) to libraries and users may save staff time and architectural
space," Ritch said in his report. "However, during this transitional
period ... library operational costs are actually higher than
they have ever been."
book boosters include those in the technology field, Ternberg
said, many of them anxious to have more computer manuals online
because paper versions wear out so fast.
National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering at
UC Berkeley, some 10 electronic books have been published
and posted at the Earthquake Engineering Library. They include
works of several UC Berkeley professors of structural engineering,
and an electronic book dictionary of earthquake engineering
is due soon.
said e-books should benefit from the passage of time.
a whole generation coming up that is so tuned in to reading
and doing everything by computer," he said, predicting it
will be less fond of the paper book than are many current
researchers and readers. And others less enamored with the
digital age simply will become more comfortable with the e-book
as they use it more, he said. The software available to read
electronic books also is steadily improving, he said.
said the program likely will continue for at least the next
couple of years, but the collections committee has agreed
not to add any new titles for now.
around the country, including the University of Texas and
Vanderbilt, have purchased between 15,000 and 20,000 e-book
titles, finding economy and buying power through a consortium
of university libraries all testing the electronic field.
Berkeley) didn't want to do that, but we might want to in
the future," Ternberg said.
journals online, meanwhile, are becoming so popular they are
"off the charts," said Sibley. UC Berkeley professors Robert
Cooter, Aaron Edlin and Benjamin Hermalin worked with computer
programmer David Sharnoff to start in 1999 an e-journal operation
called bepress.com. It offers online journals featuring cutting-edge
research in the fields of macroeconomics and theoretical economics.
The electronic publication caught the attention of scholars
and publishers with a promise of peer-reviewed publication
in as little as eight weeks, rather than the typical two-year
wait. Sibley said electronic books may be slower in gaining
popularity and use, but she expects that to gradually change.
also is a member of a task force studying e-books for the
California Digital Library. The group is scheduled to make
recommendations on March 14 about what the nine-campus UC
system should do with e-books in terms of acquisition of titles,
sharing titles, principles for licensing and other issues.