Location of Use of On-line Books
Scholars are not using on-line books from off-campus locations to the extent expected.
One of the key potential advantages to on-line books is their instant availability to scholars at any location at which they have access to a computer with a modem and a graphical Web browser. This benefit might well lead to substantial use of the on-line books from locations other than the Columbia campus. So far we are seeing only modest use of the books from off-campus.
From May 1996 to March 1997, 11% of the hits on the Columbia University Press nonreference books were dial-up connections from off-campus. Looking at the use of the social work titles, we find that computers in the School of Social Work were responsible for the following shares of hits on the social work titles:
Closer analysis of the usage data finds substantial use from the computer lab in the School of Social Work as well as from faculty computers. This finding suggests that many of the graduate students, most of whom do not live on or near campus, may not have Web access in their homes and, hence, are not equipped at this point in time to take full advantage of the on-line books. Students who use the on-line books at the School of Social Work, however, avoid walking the several blocks to the social work library, worrying about the library's hours, or encountering nonavailability of the book in its print form. In our interviews, scholars report that key constraining factors to using the on-line books and other Web resources from home are the expense of dialing in to campus or maintaining an Internet account, the lack of sufficiently powerful home computers and Web software, the frequency of busy signals on the dial-up lines, and the slowness of standard modems.
Students residing on campus may have Ethernet connections to the campus network-providing both speedy and virtually free access to the on-line collection.
At the end of the 1996-97 academic year, approximately 2,300 students were registered for residence hall network connections. With the exception of the three Garland reference books, a very small share of reference collection use occurs on
computers in the libraries; the Columbia community is taking advantage of the out-of-library access to these resources. For example, 42% of the hits on The Oxford English Dictionary in the ten months following May 1996 were from residence hall network connections.
However, these undergraduates have shown little interest in the nonreference books on-line. Residence hall connections accounted for only 1% of the use of the Columbia University Press titles in social work, earth and environmental science, and international relations and 3% of the use of the Oxford University Press titles in literary criticism and philosophy from May 1996 to May 1997. These small shares are not surprising given that few of these books are aimed at the undergraduate audience. The undergraduates' use of the Past Masters classical texts in social thought from Ethernet connections in their rooms is somewhat higher-654 hits, or almost 13% of the total use of those texts from May 1996 to March 1997.