Before the summer break, we completed a survey of academic libraries in Sweden on the subject of e-book policies and management. The survey was in two parts: first we surveyed the 31 libraries that were known to provide an e-book service and then, using a modified questionnaire, those that appeared not to provide e-books. Inevitably, the second survey revealed one or two that are providing e-books, but the response rate was low and, in the information that follows, these have not been included.

In terms of the key theoretical constructs in Winston’s model for the adoption of technological innovations, we find that there are two main drivers (the supervening social necessity), first, what might be described as technology push in the sense of the librarians’ desire to keep abreast of new technology and, secondly, access and availability. Interestingly, this second driver was written in by librarians and, perhaps, had it been presented in the list of topics, it might well have been ranked first. Thus, two things come together: a technology and the librarian’s professional ethos with the librarian’s desire to ensure that users have access to material when they need it and the technology’s ability to deliver that service.

The main sources of supply for academic libraries were aggregators such as Dawsonera, eBrary, etc. Libraries used direct purchase from publishers for, on average, 20% of their supply and aggregators for 80%. The number of suppliers used for e-book acquisition ranged from one to 100, with a median value of forty-six.

The number of volumes to which access is given also ranged widely, from 155 volumes to more than 700,000, with a median value of 135,000.

One of the principal problems in e-book supply is the lack of Swedish language material. Only one library reported that its need for Swedish language material was met: this library reported that 20% of its e-book collection was in Swedish. Most libraries (17), however, reported that they had no such material.

The number of suppliers, both publishers and aggregators, that libraries have to deal leads to a number of problems. The most frequently mentioned was the lack of a common delivery platform and the resultant difficulties faced by users in having to learn about a variety of platforms if they are to derive full benefit from the collections on offer. Not only must the user learn how to use different interfaces, they must also come to terms with the fact that the conditions under which material may be used varies from supplier to supplier and, indeed, from book to book. There are different limits on downloading and printing, different ‘loan’ periods and differences in the number of simultaneous users allowed.

As one respondent said in response to a question on the ideal system:

One single, user-friendly platform for all accessed e-books, with an easy account management for end-users. And DRM-free, of course, with guaranteed long time preservation.

Given that different suppliers assume that they have commercial advantage from having their own platforms and different conditions, one must assume that this situation is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.

We expect to have a full report on the survey available after the summer break.

Tom Wilson/Elena Maceviciute