Medical students and residents appreciate ebooks' convenience, but prefer the print book reading experience

Health Info Libr J. 2023 May 16. doi: 10.1111/hir.12485. Online ahead of print.


Background: Increasingly, libraries buy medical monographs as ebooks, but that may not be what medical students and residents want. Some studies have shown that they prefer print books for some types of reading. On the other hand, for participants in distributed medical programs, ebooks are more accessible.

Objectives: To determine whether medical students and residents at an institution with a distributed medical education program prefer medical ebooks or print books.

Methods: In February 2019, 844 medical students and residents were invited to complete an online questionnaire on their format preferences.

Results: Two hundred thirty-two students and residents responded. Most preferred electronic format for reading a few pages, but print for entire books. Respondents preferred ebooks because they were immediately available, searchable and could be used on the go, and print books because they strained users' eyes less, facilitated absorption of the text and could be held in users' hands. The location of respondents and year of study had little effect on responses.

Discussion: Libraries should consider buying quick reference and large, heavy textbooks as ebooks and pocket-sized or shorter, single-topic titles, in print format.

Conclusions: Libraries have a responsibility to make both print and ebooks available to their users.

Keywords: Canada; collection development; electronic books (ebooks); libraries, medical; students, medical; surveys.