Last week I attended the 2012 e-book and e-content conference at UCL which took a look at the current landscape of e-learning.  It was a really interesting day and I came away with various ideas for how the IHR might improve and distribute its online training content in ways that are useful for a variety of learning approaches. 

I was particularly struck by a thread that bubbled along throughout the day that technology might well be able to achieve wonderful things but at the end of the day it is the user who decides what is useful.  As Anthony Watkinson argued, the user will not necessarily go for the ‘Harley-Davidson’ of technological equipment but the ‘all-rounder’ that skimps on some elements whilst providing the essence of the experience (and provides enough usefulness) at a more reasonable price. 

From the various statistics that were displayed throughout the presentations it seemed very much to me that students will use e-books where a print version is unavailable or when they feel it is not worth their while making a trip to the library.  Print, therefore, remains the preferred reading format (at least for now) but the convenience and better availability of e-books (especially, it seems, for those many students who will write their assignments at the last moment!) makes the digital option increasingly popular. 

There are, however, many obstacles to the dominance of the e-book, not least because students still generally prefer physical books when available.  Delivery format, for example is complex.  The ipad and kindle use two different and competing formats that also differ from that used for other devices.  Cost to the individual or institution is also problematic.  Publishers need to make a profit but many options open to libraries and students remain cost-prohibitive. 

So what does all this mean for History SPOT?  We already host a variety of handbooks on research training topics such as Databases, Podcasting, and Search engines.  Very soon we will be adding more, but none of these are available for download or in an e-book format – you have to read from the website or print them off.  It would be great if we could provide those resources in other formats such as pdf and epub. 

Would this be something that you would find useful?  If so please do comment below or email us at  We’d love to hear your thoughts!