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eBook Usability Criteria and Case Study Report

In light of the global coronavirus pandemic, campus closures and significant disruption to teaching, learning, and research, our UC campuses have moved to e-format resources purchasing to allow our researchers quick access to the needed materials. Because print collections at our libraries are not accessible during this disruption, ebooks will be in high demand by our users to continue their learning, instruction and research activities. Ebook usability becomes more critical than ever to our users.

When it comes to choosing an ebook platform, one of the most important user features to consider is how the platform serves and supports the research needs of the users. Ebook platforms need to be designed to optimize content delivery and interaction for better research and study purposes. 

In 2018, in order to strategize ways to provide better academic ebook user experiences to the UC community, Ebook Usability Common Knowledge Group (EUCKG), started discussion and research on identifying possible ebook usability criteria, best practices on user experiences and ebook platform usability testing.  Recently, the group has published a case study report on evaluating a few ebook platforms, including Cambridge, Wiley and Elsevier, based on a list of ebook usability criteria. The criteria, developed by EUCKG, focuses on users’ features related to user interfaces, reader compatibility, and ebook purchasing and licensing terms. The three selected platforms were chosen by the group because of their systemwide access and their upcoming renewal status at that time.

The report includes thorough evaluation and recommendations by the group. The findings indicate significant variations across different publisher interfaces. Certain user features are highlighted in the report and recommendations on future function improvements for achieving better user experiences are also provided. The case study report and the ebook usability criteria are both intended as living documents as the group is continuing to refine the criteria and planning to investigate and test other ebook platforms, such as ProQuest and Ebsco where more and more books might be purchased from. 

The group’s efforts are particularly valuable now under current circumstances for providing guidance on evaluating ebook usability and selecting ebook platforms as ebook adoption is rapidly growing. The user experience is an essential part of learning, teaching and research success. We need to have a better understanding on how platforms vary in order to purchase content on platforms that optimize user experience.

Ebook Usability CKG Members:
Carla Arbagey, Collection Strategist for Arts & Humanities (UCR) 
Shi Deng, Head, CDL Shared Cataloging Program (UCSD)
Judy Dobry, Technical Team Manager (CDL) 
Rachael Hu, User Experience Design Manager (CDL)
Deanna Johnson, Collections Reference Librarian (UCD)
Chan Li (Chair), Assessment Program Librarian (UCB)
Nga Ong, Collection Assessment Analyst (CDL)
Michele Potter, Collection Strategist for STEM (UCR) 
Sarah Sheets, Electronic Resources Coordinator (UCM)
Ying Zhang, Research Librarian for Asian Studies (UCI)