Key behaviours issues

  • Types of behaviour
  • Little time is spent reading
  • download but don’t read
  • Experience needs to be enjoyable
  • Convenience trumps other factors


Types of behaviour

University of California Libraries UC Libraries Academic e-Book Usage Survey. Springer eBook Pilot Project. May 2011

[page 29]
Adoption ofacademic e-books and the movement away from print books remains a complex dynamic thatis significantly influenced by one’s area of study or research. Comments by surveyrespondents who both use and prefer academic e-books over print books remind us that the transition is far from easy. Users need e-books that present usable interfaces, quality content, high resolutionillustrations, access at thechapter and book level, and importantly, that are easily discoverable through both the library catalog and commercial search engines.As academic e-books become more broadly available and sophisticated in presentation and functionality, users’ expectations and acceptance of them will necessarily evolve.

From: JISC TechWatch: Preparing for Effective Adoption and Use of Ebooks in Education. November 2012.
[page 53]
As with any emerging technology, technical issues in terms of standards and formats can cause problems and frustration to learners. Cultural barriers to the successful adoption of ebooks also need to be overcome. As the JISC National E-books Observatory Project (JISC Collections, 2009) observes, “we know very little about student purchasing behaviour with regard to course texts in either print or electronic forms.”

From: Ebook consumption: Keller: reading habits of undergraduates briefing Feb2013

The students’ choice of format was influenced by:

  • Attitude towards the medium
  • Economic factors
  • Physical factors (health)
  • Affordances* of the medium
  • Engagement with content

*Affordance means an action that you can perform with the object – what you can do with it

Some aspects were differently perceived as positive or negative depending on whether they were reading for leisure or study, e.g. in leisure reading, they enjoy the distraction/ variety of hyperlinks, but found this negative when reading for study.

From: Ebook consumption Visitors & residents Briefing Feb2013
Residents and Visitors—mode of behaviour

Residents: significant online presence and usage; high level of collaborative activity online; contributions to the online environment in the form of uploading materials, photos, videos; high dependence on a mobile device (smart phone, laptop, etc.); more than10 hours a week spent online;

Visitors: functional use of technology, often linked to formal need (such as use of software for specific coursework, or organising meetings through email contact); less visible/more passive online presence, more likely to favour face- to- face interactions (even as they use the internet to organize/schedule those interactions); fewer than 6 hours spent online a week

Some subjects behave in very Visitor ways when they are doing academic/professional work, but then switch to a much more Resident mode in the context of their personal lives.

From: Ebook consumption : CIBER Research briefing Feb2013

Scholarly behaviour, including reading, has fundamentally changed as a result of our migration to the virtual space. researchers who were asked what they actually considered to be ‘reading’ for a recent CIBER RIN-funded study said that that this included everything  rom quickly skimming abstracts–and even searching a document just for images or tables–and the reading of the full- text of articles

Skittering on the scale it is currently being conducted (and likely to increase) is thought by commentators like Stephen Carr to be having negative consequences for some of our treasured fundamental skills.

Hedgehogs and foxes

Web hedgehogs are careful Internet users, taking their time to find the right information. They prefer to go it alone, rarely relying on social networks and are specialized web users, best suited to concentrating on one thing at a time.

web foxes…are good at finding information quickly. They are highly social, maintaining complex relationships with the other members of their social group, often using social networks, or other sites whose content is created by its users, as sources of information. Web foxes are multitaskers, able to do several things at the same time. They like to know a little about a lot of things. Web foxes tend to be younger (16–24).

With the impending big switch from the use of static to mobile platforms to access the Internet – mobile platforms are forecasted to be the platform of choice by 2013 – big changes in information and reading behaviour are bound to happen

Little time is spent reading

From: Ebook consumption : CIBER Research briefing Feb2013

few people spend any significant amounts of time reading in the digital environment. Most website visits see only 1–3 pages viewed and at least half of all visitors never come back – they are promiscuous, preferring always to move on to something else. Typically, a few minutes is spent on a visit and 15 minutes is a very long time to stay in a site, which in the physical world – a library for instance – would not be long at all.

people tend to view lots of things for very short periods of time. In other words, they have moved from vertical to horizontal information seeking and reading. Their behaviour is variously described as bouncing, flicking, or skittering: they move rapidly along the digital surface, usually with frequent light contacts or changes of direction. Power browsing has replaced reading

Those born digital, and who have been conditioned since birth, are unsurprisingly the ones with the greatest appetite for fast information and skittering

the Google Generation were the quickest searchers, spending the least amount of time on a question – a fraction of the time spent by adults. However, by their own admission, they were the least confident about their answers. Their lack of confidence was explained by their behaviour – they viewed fewer pages and domains and undertook fewer searches in answering questions. It was as though the goal of the experiment was to get past the finishing line first, never mind whether you were carrying the baton (the answer) or not.

Now that digital information-seeking highways (links) have been opened up within books and between books we shall see similar patterns of reading; everything seems to be conspiring against deep reading and making it easy to snatch small bites of information. In a recent JISC study CIBER found that there was very little extended reading of e-books; everyone was interested in snippets of information

download but don’t read

From: Ebook consumption : CIBER Research briefing Feb2013

If the article is long, however, the summary (abstracts are very popular) will only be read and/or it will be squirreled away…… least half of the full-text articles they download they never read, they just keep them as insurance for a day when they might need them.

Experience needs to be enjoyable

From: Ebook consumption : CIBER Research briefing Feb2013

In today’s digital environment navigating through titles, headings, contents pages, snippets, and abstracts at a huge rate of knots is a pleasurable experience

Convenience trumps other factors

From: Ebook consumption Visitors & residents Briefing Feb2013
Convenience is a major factor. convenience was the primary factor in choosing or getting information. Convenience was determined by the specific context or situation, so the solution students identified as ―convenient did not always look the same.

Convenience and validity are not always mutually exclusive in our sample. Some of our students choose the most convenient option out of a set of ―legitimate sources (those they have been directed to by their tutors or by library staff). It also is the case that students were generally positive about syllabus-based websites that had been recommended to them by tutors or were being used directly as part of the curriculum.

Suspect that convenience is a large part of why our data indicate that Google and Wikipedia are the most popular search engine and information source respectively

From: JISC TechWatch: Preparing for Effective Adoption and Use of Ebooks in Education. November 2012.
One criticism of many of these different [ebook platforms used in Eductaion] platforms is that they can be unnecessarily complex and difficult to use. When encountering complex and diverse interfaces, learners often resort to using search engines such as Google and so remain unaware of the ebooks that their institution holds within its collection that Google does not reach. When faced with complex and complicated access methods and gateways, learners not only fail to comprehend the technology employed, but they also fail to see the need to understand it or why they should want to. Currently many platforms are, according to users, unintuitive and difficult to use. There are many reasons for this, but for many learners a key reason is that they do not use these platforms on a regular basis and do not have the time or the patience to learn how to use the platform in order to gain access to resources. The user interfaces of many platforms are designed by technical staff whose primary focus is often on technical features and who do not always consider the end-user or how new users to their platform engage with it

[page 44]
Different platforms deploy different forms of authentication, and many platforms use more than one. Access processes need to be simple and, where possible, transparent: multiple logins should be avoided and, where possible, streamlined into a single login request (for example, via Single Sign-on (SSO) technologies). It is important to avoid the need for different authentication processes for off-campus versus on-campus usage of ebooks, as this difference can confuse and frustrate users: having learnt how to access a collection on campus in one particular way, many users may not understand why a different process is required off- campus

[page 49]
Given that most ebooks collections used by Higher and Further Education institutions are based on Web platforms, the JISC National E-books Observatory Project recommended that “further user centered research on interface design is critical if screen-based e-books are to be as useful in practice as they are in theory. Considerable evidence exists that current designs are sub-optimal and, in all probability, a stumbling block that is holding back the development of the market” (JISC Collections, 2009, p. 39). If this research is undertaken, then we can expect to see in the future platforms and interfaces that are more intuitive and easier to use whilst placing fewer barriers in front of users wanting to read ebooks. As the JISC National E-books Observatory Project observes, “users should not need to be trained to use an e-book platform, no-one receives training to use Amazon” (JISC Collections, 2009, p.37)

From: Ebook consumption: Keller: reading habits of undergraduates briefing Feb2013
Which factors drive decisions?
Primary texts: electronic format rules for reasons of access and keyword searching.  But for all other aspects, print wins.
Secondary sources: convenience is important, and portability, so any print advantages could be easily overridden by electronic accessibility advantage. Personal preference for print will drive some individuals to find and borrow print version.