What is an e-book? An e-book is simply a book in electronic form. It can be read using a personal computer or any other hand-held electronic device such as a mobile phone with the appropriate software. E-books can normally be downloaded against a payment from the Internet if the book is available in electronic format.
Whilst many libraries worldwide believe that the e-book is beneficial in many ways, it is still a dream in Mauritius. From the perspective of the library, the e-book has many advantages in terms of access, cost, space and preservation.
- Access. E-books are more easily accessible since any number of users can access the same book simultaneously and at any location provided that the user has the appropriate access codes. Therefore, geographical access would no more be a problem. Furthermore, search facilities are enhanced since required books and/or information within the books can be searched electronically within seconds.
- Cost. In this case, cost refers to maintenance cost and cost in terms of personnel. E-books need not be maintained because they are not subject to wear and tear as is the case of books in printed form. E-books further allow the reduction of manpower in terms of shelving and circulation since e-books need not be shelved physically and/or circulated manually to potential users.
- Space. E-books are especially useful for libraries with limited space since e-books do not require any space on shelves.
- Preservation. E-books do not require any maintenance since they do not undergo any wear and tear. Therefore, e-books do not need to be preserved under specified conditions as is the case with printed books.
However, there are also some drawbacks that are associated with e-books. One of them being that the user will also need an e-book reader if he or she is to read an e-book. The reader can present some cost to both libraries and individual users. There is also the aspect of changing technologies. Technologies change every day and so do the formats in which the e-books are stored. Formats may need to be changed over time as technologies change and are not able to read old formats. Furthermore, especially in the Mauritian context, there may be the aspect of technological barriers. Users may find it more user-friendly to read books in printed format than to have recourse to hand-held devices in order to read a book. These are some of the main drawbacks that could be observed in general.
Despite the available drawbacks, still, there are many advantages associated with an e-book as opposed to a traditional printed book. E-books should therefore be given ample consideration and librarians in Mauritius should begin thinking about its introduction in our libraries.