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How to talk to your users about why eBooks are terrible.
In 2013, the OCUL consortium purchased scholarly eBook collections with much stricter DRM. This session will explore the implications of this new model on technological support and infrastructure within the consortium, and will examine usage data and user feedback to illustrate how library users are accessing (or not accessing) borrowable eBooks.
eBooks aren’t terrible
“Part chameleon, part revolutionary, and part adolescent, the
ebook challenges our assumptions on the nature and use of
long-form scholarship in today's world. It is therefore a time of
much experimentation and questioning, as libraries try to
harness the rich potential of the ebook to support learning and
teaching in a sustainable manner.”
- Tony Horova, “Today and in Perpetuity” J. Acad. Librariansh.
eBooks aren’t terrible
● always changing
● often hard to find
● difficult to interact with
• The service arm of the Ontario Council of University Libraries
• Scholars Portal provides 10+ digital services, including acting
as a Trustworthy Digital Repository for our journals content
• Among many other tasks, OCUL facilitates consortial
negotiation of books & journals for loading into SP Books &
Scholars Portal Books
● Mandate is around both access and preservation
● 200,000 commercial titles, 600,000 public domain/OA
● Content historically available in PDF or XML
● DRM exists, but chapter-level or 10% of book download always
2013: Brand new DRM!
• Single user only
• Book must be downloaded to be read
• Often no copying or printing allowed
• After 72 hours, books are automatically
• University Presses heavily reliant on course-
adoption, and on Canadian market
• We really, really wanted everything
• Licenses re-examined annually
Questions to ask
• What’s a good loan period?
• How hard do we want to push Adobe Digital
• How much do we want to explain?
Inability to control ADE layout & wording
Inability to use materials on a public computer
Faculty wanting to use material in their class
User Experience Testing
• Setting: York University
• Attempt to test both a user’s ability to access
a title, and their perception of borrowable
• Failure rate: 100%
• Adobe = PDFs. And that’s it.
• .exe files = foreign.
• Returning eBooks = never gonna happen.
• Terms like, “borrow”, “loan” etc... are equated
with paying. And that scares students.
• People probably don’t read instructions. Ever.
• Students forgive. And still prefer eBooks to print.
Are you disheartened by the fact that you couldn’t
download the eBook?
“Having to go through the process of downloading Adobe,
it would cause me quite a bit of frustration and conflict.”
Overall what are your impressions of the user
“To download it, I think that’s fine and my impression is that
having it in eBook format is much, much easier than having
to come to the library. Once you get the hang of it, it
becomes easier to use it.”
Getting users ready/
Getting ready for your users
• Train the trainer!
• Test your interface!
And What About Us?
• Is our end goal to deliver the content to the user?
• How do we re-shape the publishing landscape while
pushing content like this?
• How do we balance faculty need for content with our
values around access and usability?
• How do we keep our users at the centre of these
photo by Twayna Mayne