Reading and E-reading for Academic Work: Patterns and Preferences in Theological Studies and Religion

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Timothy Dwight Lincoln


This article reports on a 2012 survey of library patrons at ATLA-affiliated libraries regarding academic reading habits and preferences. The research questions for the study were: [1] To what extent is academic reading done as e-reading?; [2] What features do participants value in e-books?; [3] What library sources do patrons want made available to them electronically?  The method used in the study was an online survey. A total of 2,578 individuals took the survey in the spring of 2012. Key findings were that half of respondents regularly read journal articles on a computer screen and  one  in five regularly reads or listens to e-books in their academic work. Participants wanted e-books to enable them to perform keyword searches, move around quickly within the text, and annotate the text electronically. Seven out of ten participants stated that they would like libraries to provide reference works, Bible commentaries, circulating titles, and textbooks in electronic format. It appeared that the distinction between library-owned resources and those owned by an individual disappeared in the minds of many respondents. The author concludes that theological library directors should consider spending a significant proportion of their collection budget on electronic resources now, despite ongoing difficulties that academic publishers face in making a transition to digital publishing. The author also interprets findings in light of Fred Davis’ model of technology acceptance.

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Peer-Reviewed Articles
Author Biography

Timothy Dwight Lincoln, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

TD Lincoln is associate dean for seminary effectiveness and director of the library at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.