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Researchers have spoken: According to a multi-year ProQuest survey, ebooks and print books each have value and are useful during the research process — in fact, both have remained in the top ten types of resources that users find most important for the last eight years. Understandable when you consider that researchers see ebooks as offering a uniquely valuable experience that doesn’t compare directly to that offered by print. When asked if they prefer a print book or ebook, the preference for ebooks over print has remained pretty steady at 44%-51% of those surveyed expressing that they “very often” or “often” prefer the electronic version to the print.
This insight makes a strong case that libraries best serve users by giving them options when it comes to print and ebook titles. It’s an important insight, but the more pressing need for the research was to understand how students are using ebooks and identify their pain points. Research also shows that not all ebook experiences are created equal. When done right, ebooks are immersive. When done wrong, they leave users feeling frustrated.
While developing Ebook Central, ProQuest spent the past several years not only surveying ebook users, but sitting side-by-side with them as they navigated ebook platform experiences. We learned a lot along the way about what we as vendors can do to make ebook experiences better for research and learning, demonstrating the value of library resources. Here’s how ProQuest acted on three key frustrations of ebook users:
Ebook Central aims to make the reading experience as friction-less as possible with an experience that frees users to interact with text without hitting access walls. The platform is continually working to offer multi-user models. For books that are not concurrently available to multiple users, real-time availability is displayed on the platform, indicating the number of copies held by the library and the status of the title based on library settings such as ‘immediately available’, ‘in use’ or ‘available upon request’. Libraries can reduce the incidence of turnaways by turning on “Turnaway Prevention” (also known as “Extended Access”). Enabling Turnaway Prevention ensures that sought-after titles are always available to users, setting rules to automatically procure a loan or purchase an additional copy of the book — all behind the scenes so the researcher can access the title when and where they need it with no delay.
Ebook Central enables users to read a full ebook or view its table of contents with seamless scrolling or flipping through pages, much like they would interact with a print title. They can annotate by highlighting in three colors, bookmark pages or create notes tied to a specific passage or the entire page, all of which are exportable through Ebook Central Bookshelf. We’ve strived to provide users with an intuitive and immersive reading experience. Here’s what users have told us about the Ebook Central:
“Simple, attractive, effective.”
“Very clean, easy to scroll through.”
“Similar to books you find in the library, only easier to search.”
“You know exactly what to do when you see it.”
Ebook Central leverages the ability of ebooks to add unique value to the research experience. Users can search for keywords across the entire ebook and see the specific pages and the frequency with which the search terms appear. They can instantly cite the ebook in the format of their choice. Further, they can use Bookshelf for reminders of how many ebooks are downloaded and the remaining duration of the loan, organize ebooks into folders or collaborate with other users by sharing a book or entire folder of books.
As with all ProQuest solutions and services, Ebook Central was originally developed to support the workflows of those who use it. We’re excited to offer an unmatched, end-to-end ebook experience on this user-focused platform and to continue adding features that enbable users to fully engage and derive the most from the content.