User experience handout

User experience handout

ALA Annual 2018 New Orleans
ACRL European Studies Section Germanist and Romance Discussion Groups
June 24, 2018
Ebooks and the User Experience: University of Washington Snapshot

Users have lots of problems with ebooks, it’s a complex landscape

  • LibGuide devoted to ebook complexities:
  • LibGuide is intended to help librarians troubleshoot user questions
  • Covers 8 major platforms (we have over 800 platforms)
  • Categories: Platform, Users, Concurrent users, Downloads, Offline reading, Usage limits, Returns, Printing, e-reader software, Course reserves

Users are used to local public libraries which have one uniform platform (Overdrive).

  • Academic publishers don’t work like that
  • Makes us look worse
  • Many, many questions from users: “Where is your Overdrive?”

Concern from frontline reference and chat librarians: Who will help users with foreign-language ebooks on potentially foreign-language platforms?

  • Users want help with technical issues at point of need, ebook users more likely to be remote, subject librarians not always available
  • Users may have the language skills, but still have problems with ebooks (happens with English ebooks all the time)

Users don’t know we are paying for electronic content

  • Costs are hidden, web just looks like the web, assumption is that things are free
  • Danger for public institutions like UW? (tax-payer supported, at least somewhat still)
  • Resentment of DRM-imposed access and use restrictions

Users think we are in control of electronic content, but we are not

  • Resentment of DRM-imposed access and use restrictions

DRM-free ebooks vs. DRM ebooks, day vs. night

  • DRM creates huge need for technical support
  • DRM means lower user acceptance of platforms
  • DRM-free platforms like Muse and JSTOR easy to use, PDFs

User demand for ebooks can differ by person or situation

  • Preference for print vs. electronic is not generational
  • Preference for print vs. electronic can differ by field

Measuring usage

  • How to get data? How to interpret the data?
  • Example: 2 Spanish-language ebook packages of similar size, one has usage significantly higher than the other. Why? How to find out?


  • Also a complex landscape: knowledge bases (Alma Community Zone, OCLC WorldShare Collection Manager), discovery platform indexing (Primo Central Index with or without direct urls), MARC records (from vendors, from OCLC, cataloged by hand or loaded in batch)
  • Cataloging treatment varies from package to package (not all options even exist for every package; choices based on richness of metadata or efficiency of workflow); different treatments raise different troubleshooting issues and complicate workflows for staff
  • Consortium environment: some ebooks purchased for whole consortium, some just by local libraries.
  • Ebooks UW users don’t have access to are suppressed from public display to avoid confusion
  • Inability to distinguish DRM-free ebooks that our users could have access to from DRM-restricted ebooks—we have to suppress them all if UW doesn’t have holdings


  • Does anyone have any foreign-language ebook collections?
  • Is there user demand for foreign-language ebooks? If so, which subject areas and languages?
  • How does the landscape of foreign-language ebooks compare to the English-language landscape? More complex? Less complex? More or less DRM-free? Do we know?
  • How will frontline reference and chat problems be handled for foreign-language ebooks and platforms?
  • What could be the possible cataloging/discovery issues with foreign-language ebooks?

Submitted by Diana Brooking, University of Washington