HEB recently concluded its survey to test the use of digital scholarly monographs for research purposes on various handheld reading devices, such as Amazon’s Kindle, the Sony Reader, and Apple’s iPhone. (For details, please visit the HEB website.)
We offered participants a choice of three sample titles to download, all taken from our online collection and reformatted for portable e-book readers, with each available in two different formats, ePub and prc/MOBI. The survey was completed by 142 respondents, 86 of whom (i.e., more than 60%) described themselves as librarians. Independent scholars, instructors, students, writers, and technology consultants were among the remaining participants.
Full details of the survey results and handheld conversion process will be featured in a forthcoming white paper, but here are some of the more important findings.
Respondents were asked to rate their experiences with both content and functionality. Most indicated that they were quite satisfied with straight-forward reading and navigation, in spite of formatting limitations resulting from converting to ePub and prc. In terms of e-reader functionality, responses reflected a certain amount of frustration with interactive features, such as compiling and working with annotations, and options for reference and citation.
Overall, survey participants reacted more or less favorably to HEB’s sample titles, and about 75% expressed an interest in downloading additional monographs. (Forty-six percent answered they would definitely be interested in this, and an additional 29% expressed interest if the titles were free or priced below $10.)
HEB also surveyed participants regarding their general reading preferences, and current use of handheld readers for research purposes appeared to be relatively low. When asked to compare the two formats, 69% of participants who also had access to HEB’s online collection seemed to prefer this for research and scholarly use. This does not come as a surprise, since a number of features considered important to digital scholarship by survey participants (e.g., access to external resources, searching across titles, and color images) were either restricted or unavailable altogether on then-current handheld devices. However, among the same subgroup, for casual/general reading, those preferring the handheld edition outnumbered those preferring the online edition three to one.
After closing the survey, HEB conducted a raffle drawing for three $50 gift certificates to Apple, Sony, or Amazon, and the winners have been notified. Thanks again to all our participants.