Ebooks aren’t terrible. Instead, we’d like to think of them as teenagers. They’re always changing, often hard to find, and difficult to interact with. Lots of terrible teenagers turn into excellent human beings. There is hope for ebooks.
Scholar’s Portal is a repository for purchased ebooks. Used to be mostly DRM-free, but in 2013, they purchased books from two sources that came with DRM and other restrictions. One of those sources were from Canadian UPs, and they really needed to be viable for course adoption (read: sell many copies to students instead of one to the library). The organization wanted everything, so they agreed to the terms.
In adding this content, with very different usability, they had to determine how they were going to manage it: loan periods, Adobe Digital Editions, and really, how much did they want to have to explain to the users?
One of the challenges is not having control over the ADE layout and wording for alerts and error messages. You can’t use a public computer easily, since your user ID can be logged in on six devices at most.
Faculty can’t use the books in their class. Communicating this to them is… difficult.
Ecclestone did a small usability test. Tried to test both a user’s ability to access a title and their perception of borrowable ebooks. The failure rate was 100%.
Lessons learned: Adobe = PDFs (they don’t get that ADE is not the same); .exe files are new to students, or potentially viruses; returning ebooks manually is never going to happen; and terms like “borrow” and “loan” are equated with paying.
The paradox is that it’s really challenging the first time around, but once they have the right software and have gone through the download process, it’s easier and they have a better opinion.
Suggestions for getting ready to deal with DRM ebooks: Train the trainer. Test your interface.
They put error messages in LibAnswers and provide solutions that way in case the user is searching for help with the error.