Electronic resources at academic libraries in the United States - Statistics & Facts

Nowadays, electronic resources are an integral part of academic libraries’ collections. As of 2016, on average, about 9.3 percent of all academic library acquisition budgets were spent on e-books. In 2021, the e-book share of academic library acquisition budgets in the United States was forecasted to increase by almost 50 percent. As stated by 38 percent of academic libraries, the main reason for rising e-book budgets was the general shift from print to electronic resources. Globally there was a trend of gradually increasing academic library budgets for e-books. As of 2016, academic libraries spent an average of 25.9 percent of their total book budgets on electronic books worldwide .

When comparing the initial circulation of physical and electronic library collections in academic libraries, on average, digital items were more requested at post-secondary education institutions in 2015. User friendliness and sharing/downloading capabilities was the most important feature of e-books according to 94 percent of academic librarians. The variety of citation formats available for researchers and the possibility of having print on demand also played an important role.

Despite of the general increasing electronic resource usage, many academic libraries have not embraced the trend. About 30 percent of academic libraries had no plans of replacing textbooks with electronic versions in the United States in 2016. About 60 percent of academic librarians stated that the most common hindrance to the e-book usage was the fact that most of the U.S. academic library users still preferred print in 2016. Lack of awareness of e-book availability was also an important aspect as to why many academic library users were not using electronic resources.

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