Evaluation of Promotional Strategies to Maximize Ebook Usage: A Hospital Library Experience
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Alla Iansavitchene BSc, MLIS
Minakshi Sharma BEd, MISt
Karla VanKessel BEd, MLIS
Health Sciences Library
London Health Sciences Centre

Acknowledgements:  Karen Hine, Kristy McGill, Therese Tisseverasinghe

Introduction

The use of medical ebooks has dramatically increased over the last few years. A substantial proportion of the total collections budget in many health sciences libraries is dedicated to ebooks and they are often purchased from the largest single group of vendors in the e-content market. However, despite the technological and proximal uniqueness of online resources and the near-instant access to book content since the appearance of ebooks, it is unclear if widespread use of ebooks by healthcare providers across the hospital has been maximized.

There is clear evidence that marketing and promotion have become common activities to enhance the use of resources, but there is relatively little known about the use of ebooks and effective strategies to improve their use in the context of the hospital library.

Objective

The overall objective of this project was to apply various promotional interventions such as (1) library website optimization, (2) broadcast email service, and (3) use of ebook dummies to improve the use of ebooks among hospital staff in a multisite hospital library and evaluate the evidence of their effectiveness.

Within this general aim were two specific objectives. First, we aimed to identify which of the three interventions were most effective in improving the use of ebooks available through the hospital library by healthcare providers across the organization, and to assess their level of impact. Second, we wanted to compare the performance of each promotional intervention to identify which strategy had the biggest impact on an overall increase in ebook use.

Methodology

The interventions described in this study targeted hospital staff in a multisite health sciences library (HSL) over a 1-year period.

First, we compiled a list of the most popular ebook titles using the library’s previous year’s vendor statistics for the AccessMedicine and STAT!Ref platforms. Convenience sampling comprising the 12 most accessed ebooks was used to evaluate the promotional strategies. The types of promotional interventions tested were broken down into three main categories:

(1) a dedicated section on the library homepage with (1a) a “most popular ebooks” virtual display with images for book titles, six per box, leading to (1b) a page with all 12 ebook images for the most popular titles;

(2) the weekly hospital-wide corporate communication broadcast email, featuring one ebook title per message, which included a brief summary and links within each message leading: (2a) directly to the ebook, (2b) to the main library website page, and (2c) to the collection of all 12 of the most popular ebooks with displayed title covers on a separate page; and

(3) an in-library ebook dummies display labeled with (3a) ebook title, (3b) shortened URL, and (3c) QR-codes for mobile devices leading directly to the ebook website.

In order to evaluate the relative effectiveness of these different promotional strategies, it was important to select a metric for comparing the effects across interventions that took into account the web nature of study metrics. Therefore, Google’s URL shortening service goo.gl, generating short Web addresses for ebook titles and collecting statistical data on all the strategies, was selected. We then compared the performance of each promotional strategy.

Results

The promotional strategies resulted in increased ebook usage across all strategies (number of clicks, n=1215). Ebooks promoted through the dedicated section on the library’s main webpage featuring “most popular ebooks” were accessed significantly more often (n=877), with a mean of 73.1 (SD=39.0), than ebooks promoted via messages featured in the corporate communication broadcast email (n=286), with a mean of 23.8 (SD=16.5), or ebooks promoted using an in-library ebook dummies display with QR-codes for mobile devices (n=52), with a mean of 4.3 (SD=5.6).

Conclusions

In an age when all libraries have a website to showcase resources, it could be beneficial to have an additional coherent strategy for positioning and promoting e-resources. The overall usage of library ebooks can be significantly increased by using a set of promotional strategies that include optimization of the library website, broadcast emails, and use of ebook dummies with QR-codes for mobile devices.

There is little evidence regarding the ways to assess the performance of a set of promotional strategies, particularly for distributed email messages with links to ebooks, and the goo.gl tool could be a first step in measuring the impact. It also helps to inform and develop current practices and provide actionable insights as to what improvements could be made to increase ebook use.

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