The ACLS Humanties E-Book project wanted to know how users liked reading its books on their handheld devices. So it selected three of its titles and asked users what it was like to read them on a Kindle, a Sony Reader, or other e-reader. Of the 142 people who responded, 88 percent “expressed overall satisfaction” with how the books looked and could be used on handhelds. But half found the search function frustrating, and only a quarter “felt they would have an easy time citing and referencing these editions,” according to a white paper about the survey.
Librarians made up more than 60 pecent of those who took part in the survey. Eighteen respondents identified themselves as scholars or researchers; another 18 said they were in the faculty/instructor category.
Survey participants missed some aspects of working with print books and of browsing e-books online. Individual e-books made for a Kindle or other e-reader “are not yet adequate for scholarly use” when it comes to matching the cross-searchability and other benefits of books in online collections, the white paper said. It noted that users also missed some options offered by print books such as the ability to quickly skim and mark up text. The white paper concludes that the situation is likely to improve once “a common and more robust format” is adopted for handheald readers and as the devices themselves get better.
The Humanities E-Book staff also did an in-house evaluation of e-books in different formats. It encoutered some difficulties navigating in the formats it tested “and found that annotation and other interaction with the text was difficult using a number of popular e-readers.” The white paper also lays out some of the costs and challenges associated with converting titles in scanned-page and XML formats for use on e-readers.