Purpose – This JISC funded UK National E-Books Observatory study is a benchmarking survey of e-book usage and perceptions in more than 120 participating universities. The paper aims to present the results that investigated: use of e-books in general (methods of obtaining e-books, reasons for using, viewing/reading behaviour in connection with e-books); use of e-books provided by the library; use of JISC collection texts (use and awareness); use of the library and print material in general. Design/methodology/approach – The study is based on an online survey which was conducted between 18 January and 1 March 2008, over which period 22,437 full or partial responses were received. Findings – The study shows that e-book penetration is very strong (61.8 per cent of all students are already using them in connection with their scholarly work, as teachers or students), so the e-book revolution has already happened but clearly it has some way to go. Originality/value – The paper presents the results of the biggest survey of its kind ever conducted, which represents a huge advance in one’s knowledge of e-book use on a national scale.