Deaccession of Print Books in a Transitional Age II: Business, Sciences, and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Author:Woolwine, David E.


In a previous paper it was argued that deaaccession of print books in the humanities and social sciences should be carried out in a step-wise, prudential manner, taking into account the limitations of digitization and interlibrary loan and the under-development of consortia. (Woolwine, 2014) This article is a follow-up study on the deaccession of print books in business and science collections and in those parts of collections which serve interdisciplinary studies and research.


This paper will use citation studies, studies on information seeking behavior, book format preferences and book format use (print versus electronic) to draw conclusions concerning deaccession of print books in business, science, and interdisciplinary studies in academic libraries. The method employed is a traditional literature review. (Torgerson, 2003)

Comparative and General Articles

Slater (2010) in a review of the literature holds that "The literature to date indicates computer science, business and economics are consistently more heavily used in e-book format than their print counterparts." (313) He notes that although electronic books allow more immediate access than do print books, that print books often provide more continuous access since electronic books, unless downloaded, require a connection to the Internet. Restrictions on downloading, limiting viewing to a page at a time, print restrictions, and one-user access licenses, have prevented a wider acceptance of electronic books. (314-315) Lack of content in some academic subject areas has also restricted purchasing and general use. (321) Ordering electronic books is often more complicated for librarians and pricing models sometimes make them, in fact, more expensive than print titles. (325) The cost differential between electronic books and print books in academic libraries has been confirmed by Bailey, et al. (2015) All of this has restricted overall availability, use and ultimate acceptance. The most important finding of Lamothe (2010, 2012, 2013) is that the size of the collection of electronic books increased use. This was also the finding of an earlier study in which, although the conclusion was not explicitly drawn, those disciplines with the largest number of electronic books tended to have the highest number of uses and highest average use. (Sprague and Hunter, 2009) Lamothe also notes that reference books in electronic format were more likely to be used than non-reference monographs.

Staiger (2012), in a summary of literature on the use of electronic books across disciplines, found that studies supported the conclusion that academic users of electronic books search in them for bits of information rather than read them thoroughly. Whether this differs from standard use of academic books is not established. He also found that those in the social sciences and humanities were the least likely to be satisfied with electronic books.

Tenopir, Volentine and King (2012) conducted a large survey of British academics in multiple disciplines. They found that articles were considered most important overall for research purposes but that academics gather information from a variety of sources, with both the Internet and personal contacts supplementing library resources. They also found that books remain important to academics for both teaching and research, especially in the humanities. Those in the humanities read on average 20.5 books or book chapters per year, social scientists read 9.02, engineering and technology faculty read 5.27, medical and health faculty read 3.7 and other scientists read 3.04.

Catalano (2013), in a meta-analysis of the literature, found that most of the patterns hold for graduate students. Graduate students in the humanities expressed some concern about the continued availability of older materials in an environment dominated by electronic resources. Art students did not find electronic resources entirely satisfactory. Graduate students in business were more likely to use electronic resources than were those in the social sciences and humanities. (262-263)


Fisher (1985) published one of the few research articles on deaccession of business and economics books. Influenced heavily by Slote (1982), he advocates for a combination of circulation and other use statistics and imprint date to determine whether to deaccess. He argues, however, that "The reading and research interests of library patrons are too diverse and dynamic to make categorical weeding decisions based upon the use of one methodology only. Within reason, any and all applicable methodologies should be used." (35) He also excluded a priori "classical or standard works from weeding considerations." (31). To a large extent more recent studies, reported on below, support these two suggestions.

Simon (2011) summarized studies of the information-seeking behavior of business students from 1995 onward. She found support for the belief that business students prefer electronic resources to print resources overall, viewing them as quicker and more convenient to use. (264) Simon argues that faculty members model information-seeking behavior within disciplines which students then follow. (263) She notes that Sabine and Sabine (1986) present evidence that readers of non-fiction tend to browse, skip, and search in books and that Bunn and Lavin (1992) have argued that business research requires students to piece together information from a variety of sources. Simon argues that the stage was set for greater acceptance of electronic books by business students and draws the conclusion that business reference materials are especially suited for this type of reading and searching online. (266) She cites Nicholas, et al. (2010) to support the belief that business students are heavy users of the electronic format for textbooks. (272)

More recently Costello (2014), surveying graduate business school faculty, students and staff of the Fugua School of Business at Duke University, found some continued preference for print books although the results were mixed. Over 60% of the respondents indicated that they did not use electronic books. For textbooks, 55.8% indicated print as the preferable format, 24.3% electronic books on a reader, and only 23.8% electronic books on a computer. (324) Respondents 35 years and older were more likely to prefer electronically formatted textbooks and the authors speculate that the reason is that older students were also more likely to be distance learners. Respondents preferred reading computer software guidebooks in electronic format. Career development books received more votes for electronic formats (37.8% for readers, 25.9% for computers) than did print (40.3%). (326) Here older respondents were also significantly more likely than younger ones to prefer electronic books. (325) Finally, only 38.9%...

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