Reading Books?



Providing practical support to help students develop their reading habits can take lots of forms, depending on the time and facilities available to the college.  Providing support may involve running dedicated sessions devoted to giving practical advice on improving academic reading.  It may involve building up resources detailing strategies to help students keep with the reading demands of the course.  Try this Top 10 areas of practical reading support for newly enrolled students:

  1. 1. Using reading lists effectively

Students may need guidance about how much of a reading list is meant to be covered, as well as on how to obtain items on the list.

  1. 2. Selective reading

effective academic reading involves using books in a different way from the way, say, a novel would be read.  Rather than ploughing from cover to cover it is important to extract the relevant information in as little time as possible.  This means using the index, scanning pages, chapter headings and so on. Also, it may help to use word limits for assignments to guide the amount of reading that is necessary – a lot of time can be saved by planning to read the appropriate amount.  Too often students are put off by the sheer choice of books available, seemingly covering the same material. Rather than reading the lot it is useful to develop skills for selecting the most user-friendly, up to date and relevant texts.  This needs guidance, time and practice.

  1. 3. Active reading

In academic circles reading becomes something you do with equipment – pens, paper, highlighter and so on.  Again, students need time and guidance to develop note-taking and information gathering skills necessary for effective study.  Another aspect of active reading is questioning the text.  To give purpose and structure to reading it is a good idea to keep key questions in mind whilst reading.

  1. 4. The art of summarising

Reading for academic study requires students to take a piece of text and summarise the main points.  This is a skill which requires real engagement, confidence and practice.  It may be useful for students to ask themselves – can I sum up what I’ve just read in 20 words?

  1. 5. Personalised reading

It may help to develop a set of symbols, colour-codes or card indexed aids to help record which sections of text have been covered and to help organise notes into a plan for an assignment.  It takes students a while to develop the confidence and techniques necessary for this personalised approach.

  1. 6. Critical reading

Since academic reading generally culminates in discussion, it is important for students to develop strategies for forming opinions about texts. Such evaluation skills are vital to success in psychology, so students need to overcome their feeling of who am I to criticise?

  1. 7. The reading environment

Where we read has a key influence upon how effectively we read.  Academic reading should be done in a space which is tailored to the individual needs of the student.  Some people prefer absolute silence, others prefer background noise and activity.   Others need to snack, or to be in a relaxed posture.  Above all, the effective reader has to be sensitive to the importance of their environment, as well as to their own preferred learning style.  In terms of the social environment, informal study groups (organised by students) can help them organise their reading and develop their ideas about texts.

  1. 8. More and more reading

Once enrolled it is important to find extra time and opportunity for reading. This is a real challenge for psychology A-level/access students and can make the difference between effective and ineffective study. Students can really benefit from advice on organising reading time, setting reading targets and reflecting on how well they are doing.

  1. 9. Dealing with hard, technical bits

Academic reading involves wading through text which, in other circumstances, might be tossed aside.  One aspect of psychology texts which can be daunting is technical language. Jargon enables writers to summarise complex information and to explain specialised concepts.  New students need guidance to understand the uses and benefits of jargon, and to gain skills necessary for using it themselves.

10. Speed reading  

Academic reading may require the student to vary his/her reading speed to suit the task in hand. For example, if s/he is looking for reference to a specific topic it might be useful to develop the skill of ‘skimming’, which might be a new venture for anyone whose experience is limited to leisure reading.

Helping students make the most of their psychology textbooks is especially important in view of the size, scope and complexity of some of these texts.  They are highly useful volumes, though they are likely to be more formidable than anything the students have experienced previously.  In short, these are big books.

As the table below suggests, some students have more ‘intimate’, more productive relationships with their textbooks than others do.

Effective students …….

Less effective students ……

…. keep a copy of their favourite text close at hand  

…. dip into their text quite regularly (spontaneously even) during their studies

….. are skilled at ‘tracking down’ topics or authors in their texts

…… consider it low priority to have easy access to a text  

…… are likely only to open their text under direction

…… struggle with indexes and chapter summaries to find required topics and authors

It is useful therefore to encourage all students to take on the study habits of the more effective textbook reader.  This may involve setting up tasks and games to build up students’ familiarity with their textbook. Some examples may include …..

  • ‘open mike’ presentations: students take turns to give a short pre-prepared presentation on anything at all they found interesting in their textbook, with Q & A to follow
  • ten-minute textbook treasure hunt: students are given 10minutes to research a topic/study/name/concept – using the indexes and chapter headings in their texts
  • textbook review: comparisons can be made of different textbooks, teasing out their strengths and weaknesses and summarising them in the format of a book review
  • set readings: this is a more traditional exercise, where students are directed to read a fairly challenging passage on a topic, then invited to answer questions in class or take part in a debate or discussion.

These suggestions might help to guide your efforts to enhance new psychology students’ experiences of academic reading.


E-books in Academic Libraries

E-books in Academic Libraries
Linda Bennett and Monica Landoni
Keywords: e-book models, user profile, e-book typology
Case Study  Abstract Purpose
This paper provides an analysis of the current state of the art in e-books, and attempts both to set the scene
and provide reasons for their low uptake.
The different approaches to e-books of academic librarians, authors, publishers and readers are considered,
using the results of a recent survey commissioned by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).

Findings and Value
The findings of this study make it clear that those who know about e-books see them as potentially useful
tools. However, a number of users of ICT resources are still unaware of e-books even when their academic
libraries’ e-book holdings is high. The lack of promotion from within the university, particularly from the
academics, and to a certain extent from the librarians, is indeed a major reason for this knowledge gap.

Practical implications

Publishers, e-book providers and aggregators, academics and intermediaries (i.e., librarians and information
specialists) should concentrate on raising awareness of what is available and what are the advantages related
to e-books for specific categories of users. At the same time e-book suppliers should make e-books easier to
find and purchase.
Crucially, both the research and commercial development communities have to address these major issues:
• Definition of common bench marks for research to progress;
• User-centred design as a paradigm;
• Better and stronger links with all stakeholders.
This paper will offer a stepping stone for all parties interested in moving forwards to achieve this common


Electronic books have been around for a quite a while now and although different
stakeholders have various expectations of how they could fit into both academic and
everyday life, still there is lot of confusion about them, even with regard to the basic
definition of what an e-book is.
In this paper different definitions and models for e-books are examined and discussed in
a critical fashion. How these theories impact on the existing examples of e-books or fail
to do this is then analysed. Different types of e-books are described, with reference to
their advantages and disadvantages, placing the emphasis on how they fit in with users’
needs and expectations. This is crucial, since users’ expectations are at this stage playing
a crucial role in determining the fortune of e-books. A brief analysis of users’ profiles in
relation to different models of e-books and their features is therefore provided. A
comparison is suggested between different types of paper books that have naturally
evolved to satisfy specific needs of individuals and communities and the current
development of e-books from a by-product of the Hypertext community to web-delivered
packaged information. At this point, a simple four-dimensional definition of e-books is
introduced to facilitate discussion, these four main dimensions being: content, format,
purpose and use. The role of e-books in a digital library is then discussed and a number
of possible scenarios described. Education and e-learning are explored as offering a
promising environment within which e-books could have a positive impact. The
approaches to e-books of academic librarians, authors, publishers and readers are
considered, using the results of a recent survey commissioned by the Joint Information
Systems Committee (JISC). The paper then concludes with a discussion on how e-books
could become more widely used and have a positive impact on different type of readers.
Definitions and Models
A book or document can be understood in general terms as a medium for communicating
information, where information is taken to include facts, teaching material, discursive
writing and fiction. An electronic book (or e-book) is, or should be, its digital equivalent,
a medium where information is organised and structured so that it can be presented to
the reader in order to facilitate consultation (Landoni, 2003). Consultation is an activity
that would normally include at least the following basic actions: browsing, searching,
extracting, comparing and assessing relevance and quality of information presented. The
design of e-books needs to take into account advantages and disadvantages in terms of
legibility, portability and autonomy of the medium by which they are hosted (Wilson et
al, 2003). There is of course a growing range of so-called e-book readers, that is, devices
created specifically for storing and reading e-books, each of them exploiting one aspect of
the paper book metaphor that is portability. Screen resolution is still not comparable
with paper resolution, and this has both inspired research in the area of technical quality
and created the perception that there is a need for extra value to be added to e-books in
order to justify the discomfort of “reading” them on a relatively poor resolution screen.
The main models that have inspired the design of e-books have taken as their startingpoint
paper books and their physical appearance, logical structure and usage. Working
from this, e-book modifications considered desirable have included lower numbers of
words per page, title headings on each page, clearer page layouts, typographical clues and
tools for searching and browsing (indexes and tables of contents, bookmarks and
annotations, etc.) What has not yet been taken into consideration is the diversity of
presentation styles that are appropriate to different types of books, according to their
content, use and intended audience. There are promising indications that
personalisation and user customisation will be the core of the next generation of e-books
and e-readers (Wilson et al, 2002).
To take the obvious parallel in publishing, it would be useful to look at how paper books
have evolved in format (both in appearance and functionality) to match their individual
category and purpose. For example, children’s books are different from adults’ scientific
publications, which are different again from novels; encyclopaedias differ from
monographs, textbooks from art books and so on. There are subtle differences within
each genre: sometimes the same title can be produced in different editions with different
formats in order to target a specific reader group. This is why, just to mention a very
popular example, there are child and adult editions of the Harry Potter saga which
contain the same content in a different package (the font, size, title page and overall
presentation style have been changed according to readership). This ingenious system of
matching the reader to his or her likely favoured version of a title can be taken much
further by e-books. Instead of targeting just a few different user-group categories, ebooks
can be designed to fit in with each individual’s needs and profile. Current e-book
research reveals positive signs that this refined functionality can provide a very powerful
tool to support individuals in their reading needs. This is particularly exciting when one
considers that the potential that it offers to education at all levels, from preschool
children right through to those studying in further or higher education. If it is a
requirement that e-books should provide extra value, it follows that this is a worthwhile
direction for development work to go in order to make a real impact both within and
beyond the education community.
Some inspiration has to be taken from the different types of paper books that have
naturally evolved to satisfy specific needs of individuals and communities . Creativity and
user-centred design, not market issues, should be at the core of e-book design ; and
research into how this can best be delivered will be worthwhile indeed.
E-book: Content, Format, Purpose and Use
In order to help the sparsely-resourced and diverse community of e-books designers,
publishers and providers, more needs to be done to make sure that there is a common
understanding of what e-books are and can do. Whilst we await the magic moment when
all different actors in the e-book market can share a common definition and vision, the
research community itself is in need of common benchmarks which would allow us to
evaluate new paradigms of e-books. A mechanism for sharing and comparing results is
also needed, so that it may be possible to build on each other’s experience instead of
reinventing the wheel.
One way of looking at e-books is by adopting a user- centred approach, that is, by
defining them as a four dimensional vector. The four vectors are: Content, Format,

Purpose and Use.

By referring again to the parallel already drawn with paper books, it will become clear
that content is crucial in dictating for whom and how e-books should be designed; and
that the format should be dictated by purpose, not vice versa. E-book design then
becomes a two- step process, in which an analysis of user requirements yields a user
profile that may then be utilised to develop the optimum format.
E-books in Education
When considering the potential for using e-books in education, educators, students,
librarians and e-books provider should try to arrive at a common understanding of the
potential of e-books, rather than focusing on what is currently available. NetLibrary and
ebrary, as the biggest e-book aggregators and providers for education, have been
dictating the rules of engagement for too long, and shown too little sign of wishing to
listen to user concerns. Even in the current environment, which is made up of a
relatively limited amount of available titles and a poor but slowly improving mechanism
to access them, there are signs that e-books can become a promising resource in
Realising this, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) commissioned a study
from Gold Leaf in 2003 which examined the barriers to uptake of e-books in the HE and
FE communities, and what types of promotion they might require in order to gain better
recognition and usage in education. The report, which is available from the JISC
website1, was delivered in the autumn of 2003.
The report, which involved consultation with all stakeholders is lengthy and difficult to
summarise. However, the key points that it makes include:
• Within the context of academic publishing, there is not an adequate definition for
the term “e-book”; this constitutes a source of confusion and therefore a barrier to
• The wide diversity of software and hardware products associated with e-books are
a cause of confusion and therefore constitute a further barrier to uptake.
• E-books could help to solve some of the challenges currently facing further and
higher education, including a burgeoning student population, a changing student
profile, the advent of MLEs and VLEs, and students’ lack of funds for purchasing
• Currently there are significant differences between the print book and e-book
physical and information supply chains. The e-book information supply chain is
imperfect. Awareness of the main user groups, especially of academics, lecturers
and students, but also, in some cases and for some products, librarians, is low.
This constitutes a major barrier to uptake.
• Many publishers are reluctant to make their publications available in e-book
format and / or to promote them too strenuously, because they are afraid of the
effect on their revenues. This is especially true of the major textbook publishers,
who have instead invested heavily in producing supplementary / complementary
electronic materials to support print books.
• Both publishers and aggregators have developed a wide range of pricing models
for e-books, some of which are difficult to understand.
• Booksellers have been slow to experiment with selling e-books. Therefore the
important role of information providers that they fulfil in the traditional supply
chain is missing from the e-book supply chain.
• Because of all these reasons, the survey found that actual expenditure on e-books
by both HEI and FE institutions was low. In university libraries, the average
spend figure per institution was £10,546, against an average spend of £316,394
on print books. The highest and lowest spending old universities spent 10% and
0.03% respectively of their print book expenditure on e-books. The highest and
lowest spending new universities spent 10% and 0.07% respectively.
• The survey only found a small sample of FE colleges (7 out of 37 questioned) that
subscribed to e-books. Of these, the average spend on e-books was 5% of the
spend on print books. The average spend figure was £2,488 per institution,
against an average spend of £50,833 on print books.
• 24 academics were questioned, from six universities. Despite the fact that these
academics had been “hand-picked” by librarians who identified them as
having an active interest in e-books, 6 of them (25%) did not know that
the university had an e-books collection and 9 (37%) were not using ebooks
at all. Of those who were using them, the purposes to which they
put e-books were fairly evenly spread: 33% were using them for lecture
preparation, 38% to prepare course material, 38% to carry out research,
8% to consult tables and formulae, 42% for general reference, and 42% for
private reading / pleasure. The academics were likely to obtain e-books
from a variety of sources, of which the university library (75%) was
predominant. 13% were also likely to obtain them from other libraries,
21% direct from the publisher, 21% from booksellers, and 58% were likely
to obtain them free from the Internet
• 20 FE lecturers were questioned, from 16 FE colleges. The respondents
answered a request for help put out through JISC, and therefore
comprised a more random sample than the academics. Despite this, it
became apparent that most of the FE respondents were enthusiastic users
of e-learning applications, and the use of e-books by the FE lecturer group
(at 55%) was only 8% lower than for the academics. Only 25% of the FE
lecturers were aware that their college had an e-books collection. It was
without the scope of the study to check on how many of the colleges
concerned actually had e-books collections, but at least one of the
lecturers was unaware that his college held a (considerable) e-book resource.
25% of the FE lecturers used e-books for lecture preparation; 45% to prepare
course materials / handouts; 30% to carry out research; 5% to consult tables or
formulae; 45% for reference information; and 10% for private reading or
pleasure. 30% of them were likely to obtain e-books from the college library; 20%
were likely to obtain them from other libraries; 35% were likely to obtain them
direct from publishers; 5% from booksellers, and 60% were likely to obtain them
free from the Internet, making this by far their most likely single source.
• 28 students were questioned, both by questionnaire and by taking part in focus
groups. They were a mixture of undergraduates and postgraduates from 3
different universities. Each of these universities had an e-books collection, and
54% of the students were aware of this. 88% of the students had attended a
library training session, and 58% of these remembered that it had included
information about e-books (according to the librarians, all of the sessions
concerned had contained this information). 88% of the students used the web for
studying and learning, and 39% of these used e-books. 3% of the students were
likely to use e-books to prepare for lectures and seminars; none were likely to use
them to help prepare for examinations; 32% were likely to use them to aid in the
preparation of essays and coursework; 7% were likely to use them to consult
tables and formulae; 18% were likely to use them for general reference
information; none was likely to use them for private reading / pleasure. A
significant finding was that the students were uncertain about where to obtain ebooks.
As part of their introductory brief, they were told that the library had an
e-books collection, and 75% then said that they would be likely to try to obtain ebooks
from the library. 25% said that they would be likely to obtain e-books from
other libraries; 11%, direct from the publishers; 11%, from booksellers; and 18%
said that they would be likely to obtain e-books free from the Internet. It was not
possible to gain a significant number of responses from FE students.
• The study found that some academics and lecturers use e-books in very
innovative ways, and their ideas could (and should) be disseminated more widely.
• Students, on the other hand, and many academics, are confused about e-books
and very imperfectly aware of them. However, most are willing to try them once
their awareness has been raised. Within this context, it is particularly important
that e-books should feature on the main vehicle of information used by students
and teaching academics: the reading list. However, at present this is rarely the
• Among the issues to be resolved by e-books providers, the greatest single barrier
to uptake with regard to software and hardware is the lack of a common platform
for e-books.
• Assessing potential demand for e-books is difficult, because of the imperfect
supply chain already identified, and because usage statistics provided by
publishers and aggregators are often difficult to understand and invariably
inadequate for determining the quality and extent of usage. Some modest lending
successes and a few spectacular ones were identified during the survey by
referring to such usage statistics as were available. However, the following
statistic is more significant in establishing potential demand for e-books in higher
and further education: 71% of the academics, 80% of the FE lecturers and 72% of
the students that took part in the study said that they would buy the e-book in
preference to the print book if it were significantly cheaper (regardless of whether
or not there is “added value” in terms of functionality).
• The study also examined the cataloguing and metadata issues relating to e-books,
but these are too complex to summarise in this article. Those who wish to know
more should turn to Chapter Eight of the report, which also contains a series of
case studies demonstrating best practice. A separate manual for librarians is also
available as a companion to the main report.
The findings of this study make it clear that those who know about e-books see them as
potentially useful tools. However, the findings also show that the number of users of ICT
resources unaware of e-books, and indeed their academic libraries’ e-book holdings, was
high. The lack of promotion from within the university, particularly from the academics,
and to a certain extent from the librarians, was a major reason for this knowledge gap.
For everyone involved the social inclusion offered by e-books is an attractive quality.
However, on a realistic note, not everyone has computer access, and while this is a much
bigger issue than just for e-books, it is important within the e-book context that libraries,
and universities generally, continue to improve computer access on-campus. Librarians
must also be careful to provide simple, clear and comprehensive e-book training for all
library users. Staffordshire University Library, one of the best practice cases cited, offers
training by subject for each undergraduate and postgraduate year by subject, as well as
annual training by subject for the academics.
Conclusions and Discussion
Although the majority of users interviewed expressed a willingness to use e-books in the
future, it was clear that many feel that currently the usability of e-books is too poor to
offer a genuine alternative to printed resources for serious academic study. The quality of
the content is also huge issue, and the ability of users to assess the quality influences use,
particularly within the academic community. To have e-books (if produced as original
documents, as opposed to electronic versions of previously-produced paper documents)
reviewed by reputable academics, academic and library journals, publishers and
booksellers, just like printed books, will ensure increased user confidence in the quality
of the material.
Money influences the decision to purchase e-books for libraries, since they need to make
not just “one off” purchases but continue to fund annual access fees. Given the limited
nature of library budgets, that leaves them with difficult choices as to how best to serve
their user’s needs. For users, the cost of hardware, Internet access and the fact that ebooks
currently cost a similar amount to printed books, influences their choices. While it
is not possible for those involved in e-book production to change the technological
infrastructure, sales models and pricing structures certainly come within their remit. If
e-books are to be widely used, the funding and revenue issues of the two main groups of
stakeholders, i.e., librarians and academics on the one hand, and publishers and
aggregators on the other, will have to be intelligently resolved.
One of the main ways that this can be achieved is by increasing the “added value”
qualities of e-books. Chief among these is the ability to run keyword searches over the ebook,
or e-book collection; this is obviously a major advantage, and is one of the reasons
why e-journals have become such an indispensable tool for many researcher using online
facilities. With e-books, users’ current reliance on printing negates the benefits that ebooks
offer and adds additional costs. There are copyright and technological issues that
have yet to be resolved in this context. While the problems of reading from a screen will
not disappear completely until the technology improves, it is important that the use of ebooks
on the computer screen only is promoted. This can only be achieved if value is
added to them at the design stage.
Publishers and vendors are clearly going to play an important role in the adoption of ebooks
within HE libraries. Academic libraries have tight budgets so it is important that
the resources they buy are justifiable and well-used by students and academics.
However, librarians should understand that the models must accommodate the
commercial viability of the publisher as well. It would go a long way to resolving some of
these issues if, as well as offering high quality material in a mutually acceptable sales
model, publishers and other e-book vendors would work on developing a method for
preservation and continued future access. The British Library should also play its part
by developing a proper, comprehensive e-resources archive. Until these developments
take place, academics, librarians, students and researchers are going to be difficult to
convince that e-books offer a benefit beyond providing additional copies of existing
printed texts.
For libraries, the problems of making sure these new e-resources are available for use is
more than just a marketing issue. E-books require cataloguing, integration with other
library resources and easy location by users. From the study it was clear that borrowers,
particularly those who are currently not e-book users, will look to the library as their
main resource for e-books, so it is important that the e-books are easily retrievable from
the library catalogue. There is much work to be done on this, and JISC is about to
commission a further study on e-books metadata and interoperability.
At the moment, there is no suggestion that the emergent resource of e-books will
replace existing information resources, rather than just supplement them. New
technological developments do have to be made in order to give e-books a more centrestage
role. However, the really crucial issue is that, if e-books are to reach their full
potential, they will have to offer more than simply an electronic version of the printed
book. Librarians need to promote e-books and educate users, as well as staff, about their
benefits and use. Users require a shift in attitude away from the current perception that
everything must be on the printed page, towards the varied possibilities offered by ebooks.
Publishers, other vendors and librarians need to work together on more mutually
congenial business models.
Landoni M. (2003): Electronic books. Feather & Sturges (eds): Routledge International
Encyclopaedia of Information and Library Science (2/e), London: Routledge. 168-171.
Wilson R., Landoni M. and Gibb F (2003) The WEB Book experiments in electronic
textbook design. Journal of Documentation, 59 (4), 2003.
Wilson R., Landoni M. and Gibb F (2002): A user-centred approach to ebook design. The
Electronic Library, 20 (4) 2002.

Textbooks in Teaching and Learning

Full text at:

The Views of Students and Their Teachers

By: Philip Carpenter, Adrian Bullock and Jane Potter

Published: October 2006 in Volume 2, Issue 1 | Type of Article: Practice Paper


Publishers are aware that British students are buying fewer books, and sales of textbooks over the past three years have been disappointing. A group of publishers and booksellers commissioned two studies: one to look at students’ attitudes to university, learning and to teaching and learning materials; the other to explore lecturers’ views of textbooks and their place in the teaching process. This article examines the findings of the two studies and concludes that while students find textbooks helpful, the books are no longer the lynchpin of university learning materials; they are now just part of a wider mix of learning resources that include on-line journals, VLEs, and custom-published materials.

Though students in British Higher Education spend some £150m a year on textbooks, the publishers of those books would freely admit that they know little about how students learn. Publishers know lecturers, and they know something about what lecturers know about students. But they have little independent knowledge of those students and how they use textbooks in their studies. It is possible that publishers are not alone in their ignorance. As John Thompson, who combines the roles of Professor of Sociology at the University of Cambridge and Director of the publisher Polity, has written

‘Textbook publishers are not alone in knowing very little about what actually happens in the study space – most professors and lecturers know relatively little as well. The study space is in many ways a black box and what happens within it is shrouded in mystery.’

What publishers do know is that British students are buying fewer books. Though data is hard to come by, the clear consensus among both publishing and bookselling communities is that sales in the key autumn book buying period were disappointing in 2003 and 2004 and scarcely better in 2005. That trend has mobilized the academic book industry to research students’ and lecturers’ attitudes to and use of textbooks, and to work together to promote their value. This paper gives an account of that research and in doing so shines some light on the processes of student learning.

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