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Exploring academic e-book use: part I through text analysis

Nisa Bakkalbasi (Columbia University, New York, New York, USA)
Melissa Goertzen (Columbia University, New York, New York, USA)

Performance Measurement and Metrics

ISSN: 1467-8047

Article publication date: 9 November 2015




Over the past decade, as the electronic book (e-book) collection continues to grow, Columbia University Libraries has been gathering information to develop policies related to e-book acquisition, discovery, and access. The purpose of this paper is to investigate users’ e-book search behavior and information needs across different disciplines.


The research method utilizes text data from two sources: users’ e-book search queries that were entered into the libraries discovery tool called CLIO and e-book title words provided by the Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources (COUNTER) usage reports. The analysis involves identifying and quantifying certain words from users’ search queries with the purpose of examining the contexts within which these words were used.


The prominence of topical words such as “history,” “social,” and “politics” in the list was an interesting reflection on the kinds of works users were looking for, as were the terms “handbook,” “guide,” and “manual.” The high frequency of these words imply that users were searching for broad topics, reference works, or other collections of instructions, all of which are intended to provide ready reference.


Running search queries and e-book title words through a text analysis tool revealed new ideas related to what types of materials users search for and use. Text analysis of search terms and title words provided insight into the nature of e-book use, including broad topic (e.g. history), academic level of use (e.g. introductory), and genre/type (e.g. reference). While it is challenging to deduce reader intent from word frequency analysis, as text data remain widely open for interpretation, the methodology has significant strengths that drive us to continue to use in future studies.



Bakkalbasi, N. and Goertzen, M. (2015), "Exploring academic e-book use: part I through text analysis", Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 252-262.



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