A Bit about E-Books

A bit about E-Books, Ownership & Issues

The legal gray area around e-books is changing again, and some of the less than positive changes have come home for my local libraries in Maine.  Maine has a download library consortium and we’ve recently decided to switch providers for a number of reasons both good and bad.  With this switch (from Overdrive to Bibliotheca), comes a bunch of new legality and transfer nightmares.  One of which is the focus of this post.

How much of the current Download Library collection will transfer to the new platform?

Our current Download Library Collection will be transferred to the new platform with a few exceptions. The vast majority of our collection will be able to be moved to new licenses within the cloud Library system. The exceptions are primarily items that were purchased previously, but are no longer available for licensing due to publisher restrictions on availability. The more recently the titles were purchased the more likely they will transfer.”

OK so for those that will read this and don’t know this already…Technically when you buy and e-book you don’t own it.  You’re leasing rights to use it from the publisher. (There are a few publishers who don’t follow this *cheers*.)  So when you change platforms, devices, or software and try to move your e-book collection over you may find that some of the items won’t transfer because the licensing they were released under doesn’t allow it.  So basically you’ve purchased an e-book and now you can no longer read it because the publishers says they don’t want to update, migrate, allow you to do so…or whatever other reason they decide to toss in.   This is all because e-books are treated as software and not as books under copyright law.

The most famous instance of this so far was Amazon (ironically) pulling the title 1984 from its devices. This was due to the distributing publisher not actually having the rights to distribute the e-books. Amazon was sued over this and did give refunds and a settlement to the suing parties, but this only highlights the fact that e-books are currently different animals from normal books.

Now I get it this is the publishers’ way of preventing mass hacking, copying, and distribution of their intellectual property.  I’d be angry if someone was stealing from me too, but if I legally bought something from them I’d expect to be able to use that item for as long as I want and on any device I want.

The good news is that this is starting to change.  EU (European Union) court just ruled that e-books should be treated as normal books not software when it comes to libraries lending items.  This is a big shift for our fellow librarians in Europe who now have a lot less gray in their legality governing e-books.  I can only hope that this ruling with push a similar ruling through here in the US.

American libraries had a great article about the future of e-books, libraries, and bookstores too.

So I’m crossing my fingers that the law will eventually catch up to the technology and allow libraries, and individual people, to do what they want with e-books after they’ve purchased them.


Tech with interesting potential for libraries.

This post is sort of an expansion on a post from Jason Griffey’s blog Pattern Recognition (original post: Estonia E-Residency).  So you may want to start by reading it.

In Mr. Griffey’s article he shows how the government of Estonia is allowing for digital citizenship to their country, and as part of the process each digital citizen is issued an electronic identity card.  This card interacts with a portable USB device to allow access to government services such as starting a business in Estonia.

My brain took one look at this tech and it’s potential and said “Whoa…imagine what libraries could do with that!”.

If you stop and think about it a library card, with a digital smart chip (like the ones being added rapidly to credit cards here in the US), could allow access to all of a libraries e-resources remotely from anywhere in the world.  Yes I know your going to be sitting there saying “But Jim many libraries already do that with someones library card number.”  which is absolutely true.  However have you ever tried to remember your (in my libraries case) 14 digit library card number an hour before bed when you just want a new e-book to read not to mention your username password and or pin number?…I can tell you it’s not easy.

Not to mention in the case of the Estonian citizenship card imagine if it allowed access to not only the digital resources of your local library but to your national library as well. The National Library Estonia for example who’s starting home page lists wondrous amounts of e-resources.  This would eliminate the need for usernames and passwords, (which frankly don’t we have to many to keep track of already) and it would allow for anyone whom is a citizen / library member to have a simple means of accessing their libraries resources from anywhere in the world.

That’s some serious potential in my opinion.

Needless to say I’ll be keeping an eye on this tech and it’s further developments.

I’m now officially a librarian!

Hello everyone.  🙂

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog, but that’s because my last semester of graduate school was packed, and life afterward got very busy.  But now it’s official I’ve graduated and I can now say I’m a real librarian.  Personally I’ve thought of myself as a librarian for years as I’ve been doing the job for 15 years or so.  Now however I can point to my degree(s) and say I did that and if I could do that I can do anything with some dedication and hard work.

Now (as any college grad knows) comes the real challenge of finding a job.  Not the easiest of things to do in the world and quite a bit trickier here in Maine due to the limited job market.  Since I don’t give up easily I am putting my all into moving forward and landing a job that I will enjoy and that will challenge me.

If your curious about what I was up to in time between posts feel free to check out my e-portfolio.  Who knows maybe you’ll get some good ideas.

The UX version of connect the dots.

Last week and this week I learned a lot (whole lots) on eye-tracking and how to read the results from such equipment.  I even learned how eyes focus and move which helps understand reading the “gaze plots” the eye-tracking software generates.  But if I must say putting it a bit more basically than my text-book did; It’s sort of a productive version of connect the dots.  Each time you stop and look at a point on the screen you are generating a dot (a fixation point if you want to use the jargon) on the map the software generates.  Each dot is numbered in order of creation, and is often (not always) sized based on how long you looked at that point (bigger = more time spent).  Each dot is connection by lines and the entire mess of dots and lines forms a pattern which when overlaid on an image of the website / app screen shows the reader exactly where the test participant was looking, when, and for how long.  That just screams useful information to me; not to mention being a bit techno creepy mind reading-ish…then again mind reading would certainly help to develop usable designs wouldn’t it.

Heat maps, fixation cluster charts, opacity plots, gaze point plots / maps, participant video & audio recordings, moderator comments & tasks.  No matter how you look at it eye-tracking studies generate mountains of data to go through.  These mountains are useful in so many ways to your usability study…just don’t get caught in a land slide. Develop a good file naming & organizational system, and then stick to it no matter what.  You don’t want to realize half way through you study that you’ve mixed up the videos from one participant with the gaze point maps from another…or worse yet have nothing match up.

Either way if you get the chance to preview or better yet use a eye-tracking system for anything jump at it.  Even just seeing one in action may give you ideas on how to improve your next usability study.

Have fun connecting the dots between participant data and usable design.

Eyes are windows into our choices?

This week we are learning more about eye tracking studies, and how they can give insights into how usable a website (or app) is.  Even our teachers lecture was given via a video recording of him using an eye-tracking system.  Getting to see a live video of how this system works was enlightening.  You can actually see everywhere a person is looking at, follow their view path, and in the end see a map of where their highest points of focus were.  If that alone can’t sell you on the benefits of eye-tracking I don’t know what could. (Mind you the equipment price is still a bit steep….so that’s a drawback.)

To put it another way if you are a website / app developer and you could get inside your customers head as they worked their way through your product…wouldn’t you want to?  That is exactly the ability eye-tracking systems give you.  Mind that you have to interpret the results which can I’m sure takes a bit of practice, but the potential benefits make it worth it (at least in my opinion). All that being said I think I’ve got my work cut out for me in learning more about how to understand the results from such studies. Then again there is always something new to learn. 🙂

Intertwining parts of my reality.

For those that read my last post you know that I was weighing options for mobile usability testing.  (if you didn’t read last weeks post..well now you know. *smile*)  My assignment is now complete and to say I gained some astounding insight into the world of mobile UX (usability experience … in case you didn’t know the acronym) testing would be a total exaggeration.  What I learned was simply this … usability testing is a relatively new idea and the tools are still changing.  Toss in mobile devices, which are just under a decade (ish) old and you are mixing two things together that most people weren’t ready to see mixed.  Oops we did, we aren’t alone, and we want better results!  I’m in total agreement with Jennifer Aldrichs’ assessment of the current state of usability testing tools. Check her “Mobile Usability Testing Tools” post to see what I mean.  Jennifer’s last paragraph certainly describes what I would love to see in a UX testing tool.

To add an interesting twist to my reality this week my library hosted a “Technology Petting Zoo” from the state library.  We have tablets of various makes and sizes, e-readers (both kindle & nooks), and we even got to see a 3D printer in action.  So here I am trying to study about testing mobile devices for usability while at the same time helping folks play with some for the first time.  Usability testing meet usability issue discovery!

I can truly say that at least it was an educational week.

PS.  3D printers are a bit slow but really cool. 🙂

Well thats an option….

This week we are evaluating different usability testing options for to be used on … dum dum dum…mobile devices.  To say that this poses some unique challenges would be a colossal understatement.  Usability test designing is tough enough between the options of in a usability lab (yes there are still such places), and or remote usability testing via software of some sort. Now we are throwing in devices that are by their nature (and name) mobile…the complications and various options are enough to make your head spin (or if your the nervous sort your stomach churn).

After about the fifth website / how to guide I looked at this week I discovered some vitally important facts…that are obvious in retrospect.  Mobile devices are in a constant state of change (as with most tech toys).  What this means to usability testers is that your testing design that you come up with this week may not work next week…or even later this week on a different device.  So cross your fingers that no “critical updates” come out between your test design and your test date.

Also from every site, source, UX expert a similar trouble causing phrase was uttered (or written) … There is no existing usability testing platform for mobile devices that is equal to what exists for desktop / laptops…. Well as it turns out there are a few that exist, but they don’t quite do everything we need them to do yet, and they cost a lot ($$$$).  So In designing this mobile usability test I feel like I’m choosing the least of many evils.  Not a good starting place in my opinion.

Hopefully by next weeks post / completed test design assignment I’ll have better news and some new insights into how to go about doing this.

Quick bit about presenting study findings.

This week I created a presentation of the findings I discovered during the remote usability test (the one I discussed a bit in my last post).  As usual things did not go as easily as I thought they would.  Having done usability reports before I thought it would be easier to do a quick summary presentation (via the often dreaded power point) then to create a full report…not quite the case.  In a presentation you have to be quick, to the point, and still cover all the bases without overwhelming the audience members with to much information.  It took me quite a while to sum up my findings and refine my presentation (slides & script) in order to achieve this goal.

Even after all that work I still found places I could improve.  Then again that’s the point of taking classes right?  🙂

1.  Practice your script (if you have one) a lot before the presentation…even if it is just for a audio / video recording.  The more you have this prepped the less tongue twisting moments you will have in front of the audience, and the less editing you will have to do for any recording you choose to do.  (Bonus: If living audience members are involved it also allows you to be better prepared for questions too.)

2. Practice your public speaking presentation techniques too.  I know I have the bad habit of breaking eye-contact with my audience far to often for comfort.  Again see tip #1.  Best bet is to practice with your team members / friends before the actual presentation and ask for any constructive criticism they can give you.  Tell them not to hold back the negatives as that is what you need to work on.  I actually had a boss in the past join Toast Masters just to work on this, and it worked!

I hope these tips help you a bit too.

Happy Easter. 🙂

Remote usability testing, Loop 11, and the orange page.

Hello again everyone.

This week I had the experience of creating a remote usability test for weather.com for a class assignment by using the Loop11 program.  This was an interesting experience and I learned a lot that I feel like sharing.

1.  Be prepared for things to go wrong!  I discovered that setting up the tasks and questions in Loop11 is easy, and even changing the order and adding questions (before making the test live) is as simple as drag and drop.  But apparently some websites have codes or other add on bits (particularly Google Maps in my case) that may cause problems when the tests are being run.  So come next week (tomorrow) when I study all the results of my test I’ll get to see just how badly this effected the test.

2. Don’t give away the answer in the question.  I was considering having a task for folks to find the weather in Disney World, and then I realized that Disney World is a suggested search already shown in weather.com’s search box…oops.  In my opinion tasks should have a least a little challenge to them to get folks to try different ways of getting to the answer.

3. Taking other peoples usability tests can shed some light onto the pros and cons of your test design.  I learned a lot of interesting tips and styles by taking all of my classmates usability tests. (for various websites)  Some of them put the demographic / screening questions at the end of the test, others included far more open ended question boxes, and some developed interesting and challenging questions for their chosen sites that I would never have thought of testing.  In other words become a online survey / useability test / questionnaire taker.  The more you take the more you see the more you learn what works and what doesn’t.

4.  The orange page in this weeks readings for my class has a simple, straightforward, and accurate statement written on it that is great for any useability experience person to remember.  “Shut up. Listen. Watch.  …   And take good notes.”  (1) Orange page, huge font, simple statement, easy to remember, and absolutely vital for UXD folks to keep in mind.  🙂

(1) Remote Research: Real Users, Real Time, Real Research.  By Nate Bolt and tony Tulathimutte. 2010 Rosenfeld Media LLC

Thanks for reading that’s all for today folks.

Usability II begins with the battle of Ethnio vs. The Turk.

This week marks the beginning of a brand new class (Usability II), and all the adventures that go along with that.  The class started off as normal with a intro lecture, assigned readings, and websites to peruse over at our leisure.  One of which was “Ethnio’s list of remote tools.” which I found has pretty good (if sometimes expensive) tools for conducting remote usability studies.  It’s always nice to add a few new tools to my UXD toolbox.

Then came this weeks assignment decide which of two products was best for recruiting usability test participants.  Ethnio vs. Amazons Mechanical Turk.  This wasn’t a challenge after a mere glancing over of each products web sites.  Ethnio was the clear choice, but I decided to dig a bit deeper and see if maybe I’d missed some important tidbit in the Turks favor.  The answer was not that I could find.  I found that the Mechanical Turk was indeed designed for remote work & testing however it’s so broad in scope, and variable in purpose that you kind of loose track of the specific trees in this massive forest.  Not to mention that I had to dig down through six pages of explanatory text before I found a sole small paragraph hidden there stating that you can indeed recruit test participants via the Turk. This isn’t a good sign when the instructions are so unusable and you are hoping to use the product to conduct a usability test.  Ethnio held it’s win hands down.  Not only is the products singular purpose to recruit, screen, and schedule test participants, but it even offered me a test participant survey to take upon entering the site.

The only potential down side a fellow classmate of mine discovered is that Ethnio’s participant survey form may appear unprofessional to some as it is a fill in the blank style form vs. a classic survey question form.  Guess that will be round two of this challenge for me to figure out.

If anyone reading this has actually used either the Mechanical Turk or Ethnio I’d be interested in hearing (or reading) about your experiences.  🙂