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Blog 91

Blog 91

The Teaching Commons Journal Club Blog: April 2018

Jerusha Lederman, Teaching Commons

On April 24th, the Teaching Commons held the final Journal Club meeting of the 2017-2018 academic year.   Dr. Jerusha Lederman facilitated a discussion about an article originally appearing in the Journal for Academic Librarianship entitled “The Case for e-Book Literacy: Undergraduate Students' Experience with e-Books for Course Work,”  full text available at'_Experience_with_E-Books_for_Course_Work

The paper was authored in 2013 by Laura Muir, then a faculty member at Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University, and Graeme Hawes, a librarian at the University of St. Andrew’s, Scotland. It presents results from a qualitative study examining potential benefits to students of using interactive e-textbooks over traditional print textbooks for coursework.  The authors combined results of this study with previously obtained findings (Muir, 2009), consequently allowing for the formulation of recommendations on how to better design and develop eBooks in the future.

Motivation for the study stemmed in part from an increasing investment by Higher Education Institutions in the acquisition of eBook and digital resources as student learning tools (JISC, 2009; SCONUL, 2009). In spite of this trend, the authors explain that eBooks are still not yet mainstream academic issue as texts.  In an attempt to understand why this is the case and whether etexts are as effective a resource as print texts, Muir and Hawes report on the experience of 63 third year Physics students tasked with completing a Quantum Physics assignment, or task,  using material from two etextbooks only.

The methodology employed entailed three types of data collection:

  • a pre-task questionnaire designed to obtain students’ attitudes and experience with eBooks.
  • Direct observation by of randomly selected student volunteers to video record facial expression while engaged in use of ebook for the assigned course task.
  • A post-task interview in which the video observed students reflected on their experience of ebook usage for the specific assignment presented to them.

Selected findings were as follows:

  • Student reported advantages and disadvantages associated with eBook usage were consistent with existing literature.   Specifically, students enjoyed the availability and portability of an eBook resource that can be accessed anywhere, anytime.  By contrast, students reported dislike of onscreen reading and some students had difficulty with navigating the eBook and using its features despite having reported prior eBook usage for academic purposes.
  • While using the ebooks, most students reported features such as searchable text and Table of Contents (TOC) to be useful and advantageous over static, print books in terms of locating necessary information to complete the assignment task

Selected conclusions were:

  • Generally speaking, based on the overall evidence gathered, eBooks were found to be a valuable resource for higher education.
  •  In order to assist the end user in academia, publishers should focus on better eBook design and pricing.
  • Higher Education Institutions need to focus on developing eBook literacy skills for effective use eBooks as educational tools.

Discussion at this journal club meeting basically centered around comparing and contrasting Muir and Hawes’ findings to those of a current study being undertaken jointly by the TC with York’s Division of Natural Science (Mary-Helen Armour, Jerusha Lederman.)

At a recent conference in Vienna, Austria,   Armour and Lederman presented their research on using an eBook as a mandatory course textbook for a large, first year introductory science course (see ).  Their findings are in sync with the findings within the article discussed for the meeting.  Specifically, from the York study’s inception in 2016 to 2018, academic eBook usage at York has increased over two years by over 8%.

York student eBook likes and dislikes were obtained from multiple surveys and focus groups.  Similar themes emerged in that like their Scottish counterparts, York students enjoyed the portability and ease of access presented by eBooks.   Dislikes included onscreen reading and eBook navigation features in terms of the inability to spatially orient oneself with content as is done by flipping back and forth between pages of a physical book.

One specific advantage indicated by York students was cost factor.   eBooks, especially those use for Introductory Science, can be half the price of print books.   Consequently, the topic arose with respect to publisher developed eBooks vs. Open Educational Resources (OERs.)   The majority of the group appeared to be concerned that publisher developed eBooks, while potentially cheaper than hardcopies, may still be cost prohibitive to students in comparison to OERs which are freely available.  It was pointed out that most OERs are developed by individuals.  As such, they generally do not have the in-house development resources and computer team required to build and maintain user-friendly, eBook specific software interfaces / features / LMS integration capabilities that make academic eBook usage advantageous as truly interactive learning tools.


JISC (2009), National e-books observatory project: Key findings and recommendations. Online. London: JISC. Available: [Accessed 7 December 2011].

Muir, L.J., Veale, T. & Nichol, A. (2009). Like an open book? Accessibility of e-book content for academic study in a diverse student population. Online. Library and Information Research 33 (105), 90-109. Available:  [Accessed 4 April 2010].

SCONUL (2009), Annual Library Statistics. Online. London: SCONUL. 

Available: [Accessed 1 February 2010].

Please join the conversation using the comments box below.

The Journal Club is an opportunity for colleagues interested in exploring innovation in teaching and learning to collaboratively read and discuss literature in the field. Participants are provided with a journal article identified as a topic of potential interest to be discussed in an informal gathering at the Teaching Commons.

Do you have an article to share or a topic you would like to discuss? Are you interested in leading a conversation of the Journal Club? Contact Lisa Endersby, Educational Developer (