The e-book: it doesn’t smell or feel like a book

On: October 18, 2010
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About Janice Wong
Janice Wong is an Australian-born cellist and digital media fanatic living the life in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). She graduated from the Masters of New Media programme at the University of Amsterdam in 2011 and worked at adidas as a Global Social Media Manager until 2017. She is now a Music Producer & Cellist based in Amsterdam. Contact: janice[at]


32-year-publishing veteran Jerry D. Simmons says that e-books will replace traditional media. Many academic libraries, including Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam are rapidly expanding their catalogs with electronic books and the digitization of their printed materials. So are libraries in favour of the e-books, and what about the users? Let us take a closer look.

In the article Assessing e-books: Taking a closer look at e-book statistics by Nancy Sprague, The University of Idaho (UI) Library in 2008 conducted a study on e-book usage from 3 major e-book providers in different subject areas and platforms. Looking at raw usage statistics only provides a part of the overall picture. Results found that their e-books were not heavily used, and proposed further studies on  “why?” Is it the interface? Is it the selection of titles? Is it a need for us as librarians to build a greater awareness of this resource in our user community?

Marc Kosciejew on the other hand in Crossing the Digital Rubicon: From Print Books to E-Books and Beyond claimed that the growing popularity of e-books and other digital resources does NOT signal an end to the print book. He argues many authors and readers, moreover, still write and read print monographs and rightly expect to have access to them on libraries’ physical shelves. He also states that despite the e-book’s growing popularity, there are some problems:

  • First, e-books are not always financially or technically accessible for patrons. Being able to borrow (or buy) and download an e-book requires an e-reader, like the Kindle. In other words, you need to have the money to purchase an e-reader in order to then download a library’s e-book. If you do not have an e-reader, a library’s collection of e-books will be largely inaccessible to you.
  • Second, it may be financially prohibitive, and logistically problematic, for a library to provide e-readers to its patrons due to library budgets, costly updates and constantly upgrading infrastructure.

And what about the users? Perhaps users may find it appealing to turn the crisp pages of the latest Murakami, or the enjoy raw musty smell of an old rare edition. Not everyone wants to bother with technology, no matter the hype. What is a vook anyway? And also, when you just want to sit and read, and your Kindle or iPad has a fault, who will come to the rescue? Even in Medieval times they needed help when the introduction of books came out…


Kosciejew, Marc (2010) Crossing the Digital Rubicon: From Print Books to E-Books and Beyond. Feliciter 2010, Vol. 56 Issue 3, p119-120

Sprague, Nancy (2008) Assessing e-books: Taking a closer look at e-book statistics Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services 2008: (Volume 32, Issues 3-4) p. 150-157

Voedisch, Lynn (2010) Seasoned Publisher Says E-Publishing Will Replace Traditional Books

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