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The electronic book: a transformational library technology?

Nicholas Joint (Andersonian Library, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 2 March 2010



The purpose of this paper is to form one of a series which will give an overview of so‐called “transformational” areas of digital library technology. The aim will be to assess how much real transformation these applications are bringing about, in terms of creating genuine user benefit and also changing everyday library practice.


An overview of the present state of development of the electronic book (e‐book), looking at perceptions in the popular press, statistical data from reputable sources, recent findings from the publicly funded quango Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), consultants funded by JISC, individual comment from well‐informed writers and observations from contemporary library practice.


The paper finds that the e‐book has not proven itself as a transformational technology in the context of library services, nor as a consumer product to be sold directly to end users. It does have the potential to be so, if certain problems related to usability, business models and library finding tools are addressed.

Research limitations/implications

This paper does not engage in a research level investigation of the subject, but does acknowledge and support JISC's recommendations for future research, while putting these into the context of everyday library practice.

Practical implications

This paper outlines some of the practical challenges faced by librarians in the implementation of e‐book services. These are not always sufficiently acknowledged by publicly funded research that takes place away from the arena of everyday practice.


The approach in this investigation is to present the broader possibilities of e‐book services in a way that is both familiar to library practitioners, and which favourably contrasts the insights and perspectives of the working library profession with those of the higher profile popular press or generously funded research community.



Joint, N. (2010), "The electronic book: a transformational library technology?", Library Review, Vol. 59 No. 2, pp. 83-91.



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