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Seeking Knowledge: The Adoption of Ebooks by Historians

Anabel Quan-Haase and Kim Martin

ASIST 2011 Annual Meeting
New Orleans, LA, October 9-12, 2011


Despite their slow diffusion in society, Ebooks have recently garnered renewed interest from academics as part of a move toward the digital humanities. To examine how humanists are adopting Ebooks, we focus on the first stage, the Knowledge Phase, of Rogers' model of the diffusion of innovations. Central to this stage is the study of adopter attitudes toward the innovation and the role played by social networks in the adoption process. Historians were selected as the population of study because of their close relationship to the printed book, both as a research tool and as an academic goal. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with historians and then analyzed using a grounded theory approach. The results show that historians had both a positive and a negative attitude towards the Ebook. Often the same person showed eagerness and curiosity to adopt certain features of Ebooks whilst showing some degree of reluctance and skepticism. We identified the Role of the Social Network (RSN) as an important factor in the decision-making process of historians. Respondents frequently mentioned the subject specialist librarian for history as a key source of information. In addition, historians went to their peers in and outside of the department when seeking advice on working with Ebooks. As Ebooks gain ground within academia, studies such as this, that focus on a single discipline, will be necessary to understand why scholars make the decision to adopt or reject Ebooks. By seeking to understand the roles that different social networks play in the decision-making process, the researchers found that librarians often act as change agents on the university campus. For this reason, the impact they have on the use of new technologies by academics needs further attention.

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