20/03/2012 13:19 GMT

Teachers And Students Gain Access To Online Books

A project to convert books into online resources looks set to pave the way for the future of university libraries.

The initiative is digitising content from a variety of locations and bringing them together under one virtual roof.

More than 365,000 books have been converted into online format and are available to academics, researchers and students in the UK via the JISC Historic Books platform.

Mimas, an academic research centre based at Manchester University, and software company Autonomy, joined forces to make the literature more readily available and claims to "revolutionise" research in the UK by opening up a "world of resources".

Vic Lyte, Head of Technology Services at Mimas, said: "This represents a massive advance for the research community, showing, for the first time in this sector, how meaning based technology can be used to unlock some of our country’s most valuable assets – its literature."

The news will no doubt be welcomed by students considering to stay at home due to increasing financial pressure but concerned about access university resources, and libraries in particular.

In order to keep accommodation costs down, more and more are choosing home over independent student housing - with 19% of undergraduates staying put in 2010.

Hannah, a third-year student at Reading, said she considered staying at home as the distance was easily commutable but had worries about the feasibility of accessing the Library after-hours.

"I could have stayed at home, which would have saved a lot of money," she told The Huffington Post UK. "But I was worried it would affect my studies. What if I was making last-minute adjustments to an essay and urgently needed to use a book at the Library? I couldn't really risk that happening and me not being able to get there because the trains had stopped running."

Additionally, the online resources may alleviate the hidden costs of textbooks. Exeter University estimates the cost of books averages at £320 per year, while a survey of students in 2010 found a quarter of students were caught out by the "high prices" of their textbooks.