The Price of Admission
While the end user might see no additional fees to access the ebooks, they do come at a stiff price for the libraries that provide third-party access. While the STM representatives declined to discuss prices, Cleto did say that libraries have the option to buy packages and pricing is determined by the size of the organization and the anticipated users.
“The cost efficiency depends on the kind of university,” she says. Some schools are joining together to provide more options to their students. For example, the Northeast Research Library is a consortium of New England schools that combined forces to develop a better overall buying power, particularly buying more books at a better price. “Buying in bulk is an advantage.”
“It’s a one-time payment option,” says Scheidegger. Electronic versions of books mean that libraries and other institutions no longer have to worry about replacing lost or damaged copies. Once the copy is available as an ebook, it is always available.
Despite their growing popularity, Cleto doesn’t see an end for STM print books. “People will use ebooks for small things; however, the serious student will use the textbook. They’ll want something physical on their shelf for easy reference.”
Scheidegger agrees. “Print will always play a part in research, even as science and technology books go online.”
Kindling Public Interest
While the research and academic arenas seem to be a perfect fit for ebooks, the general population has been a harder sell. Early reading devices haven’t been successful, and until recently most of the population appeared to be more comfortable reading in a more conventional manner.
However, technology is catching up, and the population is becoming more tech-savvy, not to mention more accustomed to and interested in having information instantly accessible. After all, if we can read our email or surf the web on a phone we carry in our pockets, we want books to be just as accessible.
There have been ebook reading devices on the market for several years, like the Sony Reader, but it is Amazon.com’s Kindle that has the reading world buzzing.
“Kindle is a new class of device, purpose-driven for reading,” explains Heather Huntoon, public relations manager at Amazon.com. “We kept everything we love about books—the simplicity, ease of use, and their effortless ability to captivate us—and enabled new possibilities.”
One thing that makes Kindle different from existing methods of reading ebooks is its wireless capabilities. It doesn’t need a Wi-Fi hotspot (or to be connected via a network) to download the latest best-seller or today’s New York Times (Kindle can replace your print-version magazines and newspapers as well). Its wireless capabilities work more like a cell phone service.
“Kindle uses a revolutionary new display technology called electronic paper,” explains Huntoon. “The screen is sharp and natural with no glare and even in sunlight, reading on Kindle is nothing like reading from a computer screen.”