CityU spearheads the “Super eBook Consortium” of 48 universities

Cindy Hui

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City University of Hong Kong, together with Feng Chia University and National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan, spearheaded the launch of the “Super eBook Consortium” on 14 December 2005.


The Consortium, a group of 48 university libraries in Hong Kong and Taiwan, is partnering up with the world’s largest ebook provider, the Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC), to establish the “Super eBook Collection”.  Offering over 50,000 volumes of ebooks, the consortium’s ebook collection is the largest and the most comprehensive of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region.


The “Super eBook Collection” is a breakthrough service. It lets students borrow ebooks via the internet. This boosts CityU’s e-learning culture and the cross-institutional sharing of academic resources. These resources are made available to users of all the participant universities any time and anywhere for the enhancement of their learning and research.



The Consortium is a response to a reduction in funding in recent years, which has left local university libraries with fewer English-language academic books. Thus, starting June 2005, CityU has joined forces with FengChiaUniversity in Taiwan to recruit universities in Hong Kong and Taiwan to form a consortium. This partnership has consolidated the purchasing power of the six participating local universities and their 42 Taiwanese counterparts.


The Consortium can now acquire a large quantity of English-language ebooks at a very reasonable price and make them available for shared access. By the end of November, the Consortium had procured over 50,000 ebooks on the humanities, law, medicine, business administration, science and engineering, at an original price close to US$5.5 million. The acquisition is currently the largest single purchase in the world.



Professor David Tong, Acting President of CityU, said, “Hong Kong possesses the first-rate IT infra-structure, which readily provides an electronic environment to nurture a generation of new talents, to facilitate international academic exchange and to support online teaching and learning.”


“Four local universities are ranked among the top 200 in the 2005 Times Higher Education World University Rankings,” Professor Tong said. “This confirms that tertiary education in Hong Kong has attained international recognition in both teaching and research. These institutions possess all the conditions to export education.”


Dr Jerry Yu, Chief Information Officer at CityU, said the “Super eBook Collection” was a seamless and convenient learning platform. “As broadband internet access becomes more popular, students will prefer self-directed learning over directed learning. Instructors and students are used to searching for learning materials and exchanging what is learnt via the internet, so the “Super eBook Collection” fits well into this globalized learning model, allowing students the freedom to generate their own academic discussions and to share resources in order to achieve better academic results,” Dr Yu said.



Dr Yu added, the collection so established by the Consortium offers ebooks of various professions and disciplines, which allows students to access the world’s most updated e-publications and benefit from the latest literatures. This helps to inspire the students to improve the quality of learning and research.”


University Librarian Professor Steve Ching supported and intensified the collaboration between the participating universities. “Universities shoulder the responsibility of creating and transmitting knowledge, and an ebook library is an indispensable learning platform for today’s knowledge-based society. Through the electronic platform , storage, search and loan of ebooks have been upgraded to further relieve the physical burden on libraries,” he said.


Professor Ching said academic ebooks were usually 55% more expensive than their print counterparts because of the maintenance fees for platform provision and the costs for around-the-clock interlibrary circulation.


“Coordinated acquisition through the Consortium gives us a strong bargaining chip to further reduce the unit price of English-language ebooks purchased. We have managed the de-duplication exercise on the development of the ebook collection whereby each member library agrees to offer shared access to users. This demonstrates a strong commitment to cross-regional collaboration and sharing of resources. Each member can minimize the cost to purchase ebooks and at the same time enjoy access to over 50,000 volumes of currently published academic and professional ebooks. For example, the price of a print English-

language academic book costs on average around HK$400, while its electronic equivalent will cost around HK$7.5. It will take an average of 5 to 10 years for a single library to build up its own collection of these 50,000-plus volumes on condition there is no reduction in expenditure every year. The Consortium’s acquisition and collection development model is not limited to the local tertiary education sector. Collaboration can extend to inland university libraries and even public and school libraries in both places. A consortium can be formed in the most cost-effective way within a short period of time. CityU Library is more than willing to continue promoting the collaboration to benefit more students and education workers,” Professor Ching said.


CityU is a well-developed tertiary institution with web-teaching successfully applied to the general education of Chinese culture. During this academic year, a common e-learning platform, Blackboard Academic Suite, has been deployed. Students can access various kinds of learning materials and build their own e-learning files. The “Super eBook Collection” will complement this e-learning platform by letting students use web resources to attain the IT skills used in searching and e-learning and to have online discussions with instructors and friends on different academic topics.


The Consortium’s partner, OCLC, is a pre-eminent computer library service and research organization in the US, which offers ebooks from leading publishers such as Springer, Taylor & Francis, Harvard Business School Press, MIT Press, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press.



Another major advantage is the saving of physical storage space and operating costs. For instance, a 300-square-metre area is required for the storage of 50,000 volumes of “real” books. If all 48 libraries reserve 50,000 volumes of “real” books at the same time, the space required will be almost double that of the total floor area of the University Library.


Web-teaching is an important aid to quality teaching and research and the University’s instructors, e-learning technicians, and library assistants are committed to providing students with the appropriate learning resources and tools.


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