Thursday, 18 July 2013

Are e-readers suitable tools for scholarly work? Results from a user test

an article by Siegfried Schomisch, Maria Zens and Philipp Mayr (GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Cologne, Germany) published in Online Information Review Volume 37 Issue 3 (2013)


The purpose of this paper is to offer insights into the usability, acceptance and limitations of e-readers with regard to the specific requirements of scholarly text work. To fit into the academic workflow, non-linear reading, bookmarking, commenting, extracting text or the integration of non-textual elements must be supported.

A group of social science students were questioned about their experiences with electronic publications for study purposes. This same group executed several text-related tasks with the digitised material presented to them in two different file formats on four different e-readers. Their performances were subsequently evaluated in detail.

E-publications have made advances in the academic world; however e-readers do not yet fit seamlessly into the established chain of scholarly text-processing focusing on how readers use material during and after reading. The authors’ tests revealed major deficiencies in these techniques.

The usability test of e-readers in a scientific context aligns with both studies on the prevalence of e-books in the sciences and technical test reports of portable reading devices. Still, it takes a distinctive angle in focusing on the characteristics and procedures of textual work in the social sciences and measures the usability of e-readers and file-features against these standards.

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