Assessing the User Experience of E-Books

Method: Transaction Log Analysis, Usage Log Analysis, Experiment Design, User Tests, Pattern Analysis, Statistical Analysis
Tools: Python, MySQL, SAS, Morae, Tableau


E-books have emerged as a new format of scholarly resources in academic libraries. Understanding how users search for and retrieve information from e-books is critical for libraries to assess the impact of e-books and develop a user-centered strategy to improving e-book collections.


We conducted analyses of transaction logs from a discovery tool and e-book usage data, as well as an empirical user evaluation of major e-book platforms (ProQuest, EBL, ebrary, and EBSCOhost).


The transaction log analysis showed that book searches have shorter query length, less number of queries per session, and more number of actions than general searches. Compared to general searches, book searches tend to be more targeted with more actions on identifying relevant results and examining item details. From the usage data we have identified e-book reading patterns ranging from browsing beginning of books (most common), reading particular chapters or sections of books, to reading from beginning to end (rare).

The user evaluation involved 12 participants with various background and experience levels with e-books. The test tasks included searching for e-books on given topics and finding pieces of information in specific e-books. Similar to our findings from transaction logs, participants tended to use simple keyword search and browse the first page of search results. Reformulation of queries and the use of facets were less common compared to browsing results. We also found that e-book experience significantly affected how participants completed the information seeking tasks. The beginners conducted more searches within e-book than the intermediate and expert users, while expert users relied more on the Index, List of Images, List of Tables, and Table of Contents before using the search function. We have also identified a number of usability issues related to interface design and user required features of those e-book platforms.


Assessing User Experience of E-Books in Academic Libraries from Tao Zhang

Project Report

Download the project report.

Updated on September 1, 2015