Online Information 2007, Day 2, Weds 5 Dec

December 12, 2007

So, after once again slogging my way across London (sorry to go on, but it really was a bit much!), I found myself back at Online Information, for day 2 of the conference (you can read about the previous day here).

The first session I attended was on the hot topic that is e-books, what with the recent announcements from Amazon about their not-so-good looking, but potentially market-creating Kindle product. I’m going to blog at some length about this session for work reasons, so please skip the next few paragraphs if you’re not interested!

The session started with an overview of the current state of play, which made it very clear that e-books are the coming thing. This was backed up by David Nicholas , the director of SLAIS at University College, London, one of my old university departments. His usage statistics at UCL demonstrated a trend of growth in the use of e-books, but from a low base.

The final speaker at this session was Jill Taylor Roe, from Newcastle University library. She highlighted some of the key problem, from an academic librarians perspective. They were:

  • Lack of availability of textbook content.
  • Difficult and/or wildly excessive pricing models.
  • Lack of standardised usage data.
  • A number of different platforms on which e-books are provided.

She noted that both students and academics are now driving demand, which wasn’t the case a few years ago. She also noted a couple of useful resources: the JISC national e-books observatory project, and the COUNTER project, which monitors the usage of e-books. She went on to say that the next step was for publishers to provide more materials via e-books, and to experiment further with pricing models that were currently dampening demand. This seemed to me the fundamental issue- that until publishers make their pricing models more reasonable, and see e-books an opportunity rather than a threat, growth will continue to be more sluggish than it might otherwise be.

The next session, on Tools and Eresources for librarians, was something of a misnomer. The session was actually looking at usage statistics, a worthy subject in its own right perhaps, but not strictly what was advertised. The first two speakers had done some incredibly detailed research on accessing journal articles, which, while a worthy endeavour, wasn’t that relevant to my line of work.

The third speaker was Ian Rowlands, another SLAIS person. He presented on research he had done into the so-called “Google Generation”, i.e. those young people born around 1990, who essentially do not know a world prior to the internet. His findings were revealing. Contrary to much popular belief, and indeed some of the stuff talked about during the conference, these young people are not necessarily the intuitive internet users they are often assumed to be. Rowlands noted a sense of continuity between generations, and no radical break. He noted that many so-called “silver surfers” were in fact more tech-savvy than teenagers, that many teenagers were “digital dissidents” in actively choosing not to use the internet, and that teenagers conceptions of the web were essentially “horizontal”, insofar as they saw the internet as basically Google and all the stuff “contained” by Google. His conclusion was that there was generally an over-estimation of the effect on the internet on teenagers, and an under-estimation on other demographics. All this was a welcome corrective to a lot of the stuff that web 2.0 evangelists like to tell you.

The last session I attended was on services innovation in libraries. The first speaker, David Clay of the University of Liverpool library, gave an interesting talk on bibliometrics, and the way they can be used to provide support for academic staff and faculties, and to provide another area in which the library can prove its expertise. Bibliometrics seems to be the coming thing in certain library circles.

The next speaker was David Ball from the University of Bournemouth, who explained how that institution’s virtual learning environment (VLE), called eRes, was allowing the library to innovate in terms of service provision.  This was nothing new to me, having been involved in the development of a new VLE for student use last summer. Finally, a similar presentation from Niels Jorgen Blaabjerg, from Aalborg University Library in Denmark, explained a similar VLE implementation at his institution.

Wednesday’s sessions were drier than some of the more speculative stuff of the previous day, but contained some really useful, practical material that will be food for thought.


2 Responses to “Online Information 2007, Day 2, Weds 5 Dec”

  1. Tom Says:

    RE: that “Google Generation” stuff. We did some really interesting qulaitative research at work, following a couple of hundred teenagers around and seeing how they use digital devices, the findings were similar to those you mention.

    Remind me to tell you about it sometime.

  2. neilstewart Says:

    You did tell me about it! Something about teenagers always having old phones with no credit?

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