Tedd, L. (2007), "Editorial", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 41 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/prog.2007.28041caa.001Download as .RIS
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During the period in which this special issue on e-books in libraries was “brought together”, e-mails appeared on various library lists in the UK highlighting e-book related events. For instance in May 2007 a one-day seminar on “Putting Content in Context” is planned at University College London, where the introductory information states that “E-books have finally become accepted in many organisations and licensed e-content is proliferating through library catalogues and web portals”. Also, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), in association with UK Higher Education, launched the National E-Books Observatory project in March 2007 “to assess impacts, observe behaviours and develop new models to stimulate the UK higher education e-books market” (see www.jiscebooksproject.org/archives/24). JISC has had a working group on e-books for some years and has commissioned a number of reports on e-books in further and higher education in the UK which have looked at issues such as promotion, use of free e-books and most recently (October 2006) on the acquisition of e-books by higher education libraries and JISC’s role in this process (see www.jisc-collections.ac.uk/workinggroups/ebooks/ebookswg_studies.aspx).
The development of electronic versions of printed books (or e-books) can be seen as part of the whole e-publishing phenomenon that began in the 1960s. According to Ardito (2000) the phrase “electronic book” was coined by van Dam at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, during the 1960s when working on early hypertext systems. In 1971 work started on Project Gutenberg in the USA, to generate e-books for printed works that were out of any copyright law restrictions within the USA. This project, along with its partner organisations in other parts of the world, now provides free access to about 100,000 e-books (see www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page). A recent major development in the area of digitising books is Google’s Book Search project, which aims to digitise the world’s books in order to make them easier for people to borrow and buy (see http://books.google.com/googlebooks/about.html). Users searching the content of material covered in the digitised books may, if the book is out of copyright, gain access to the full text, otherwise a “limited preview” or a “snippet” may be shown.
Definitions of what exactly is meant by an e-book led Clifford Lynch, Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information in the USA, to state in 2001: “imprecise and inconsistent terminology has been a major source of confusion in the hype over e-books, and an obstacle to disentangling the issues involved” (Lynch, 2001). The definition of an e-book now given by Wikipedia reflects the problem identified by Lynch:
An e-book (also: eBook, ebook), sometimes called an electronic book, is an electronic (or digital) equivalent of a conventional printed book. The term has occasionally been used ambiguously to refer to either an individual work in a digital format, or a hardware device used to read books in digital format, more specifically called an e-book device or e-book reader (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebook).
For more information about e-books in libraries, Armstrong provides very useful lists of papers published on e-books annually since 2000 (see www.i-a-l.co.uk/resource_ebook2000.html). In 2004 UNESCO funded a workshop in Bangalore on the future of e-books, which identified the issues and complexities involved in e-book projects and delineated the role of e-books in education, research and libraries from the perspective of the publishers, distributors and users. An earlier paper published in Program: electronic library and information systems reports on an investigation of the use of e-books at the Indian Institute of Science (Anuradha and Usha, 2006), and an even earlier Program paper, based on a mapping exercise undertaken for JISC, provides details of e-books in UK academic libraries in the early 2000s (Armstrong et al., 2002). An international overview of e-books in academic libraries is given by Tedd (2005).
Most e-books available at present are digitised versions of printed books with extra functionality regarding linking and searching features. For instance, a book I co-authored which was conceived, written and published as a print book (Tedd and Large, 2005), was then made available by the publishers as an e-book. My distance-learning students around the world for whom this is a core text find it of immense help to be able to access the full text 24/7 from wherever they are studying. E-books are now important digital information sources, along of course with e-journals, in academic libraries and, as noted by many authors in this Special Issue, form part of the virtual learning environments being implemented. In addition, as Fernandes reports in his paper, there is also a role for e-books in public libraries. This Special Issue brings together a number of papers, mainly from the UK, providing much practical experience of library and information staff in academic and public libraries who have implemented e-book services. I hope you find it useful and interesting.
Lucy A. Tedd
Anuradha, K.T. and Usha, H.S. (2006), “Use of e-books in an academic and research environment: a case study from the Indian Institute of Science”, Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 48–62
Ardito, S. (2000), “Electronic books: to ‘E’ or not to ‘E’ that is the question”, Searcher, Vol. 8 No. 4, available at: www.infotoday.com/searcher/apr00/ardito.htm
Armstrong, C.J., Edwards, L. and Lonsdale, R. (2002), “Virtually there? E-books in UK academic libraries”, Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 216–27
Lynch, C. (2001), “The battle to define the future of the book in the digital world”, First Monday, Vol. 6 No. 6, available at: www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue66/lynch/index.html
Tedd, L.A. (2005), “E-books in academic libraries: an international overview”, New Review of Academic Librarianship, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 57–79
Tedd, L.A. and Large, J.A. (2005), Digital Libraries: Principles and Practice in a Global Environment, Saur, Munich