Undesirable Difficulties: Investigating Barriers to Students’ Learning with Ebooks in a Semester-length Course

Our ability to make informed decisions about ebooks is constrained by our limited understanding of how students perceive and use them. A team of librarians and a professor in learning sciences asked graduate students to serve as informants on student experience with ebooks. We analyzed student work in two semester-long studies, focusing on barriers and affordances they identified. In the first cohort, students who chose to explore ebooks uncovered affordances. In the second cohort, student comfort levels with PDF formats increased, while comfort with ebooks decreased. We discuss strategies for minimizing challenges and increasing desirable difficulties to support ebooks as learning tools.


There have been calls to fill gaps in understanding how students perceive and use ebooks.1 For instance, little is known about why and when students switch between electronic and paper formats2 or what affordances and barriers ebooks present.3 Affordances refers to the idea that any object or technology can afford myriad uses, but these must be perceived as such by the user.4 This study reports on a collaboration between librarians and a learning scientist that investigated these questions in an academic program focused on adult learning, instructional design, and technology, including e-learning. According to the Network of Academic Programs in the Learning Sciences (NAPLeS), most learning science programs are housed in colleges of education.5 In contrast, this program is part of the university library, resulting in frequent discussions of common issues between the librarians and program faculty.

As librarians, we invest in ebooks for many reasons. Ebooks are often acquired in packages, making them an affordable alternative to title-by-title selection. Ebooks are especially convenient for online students and they require no shelf space, thus not adding to perennial space problems. Librarians’ contact with ebooks after they have been added to the collection is often limited to addressing access difficulties.

As teaching faculty, we choose texts based on content; but, as more of our students need to access texts remotely, we are often forced to use whatever formats or interfaces are available for the text. And because of the high cost of texts, we are often encouraged to consider more affordable options. Unaware of the research on ebooks and issues related to eplatform navigation, faculty commonly adopt ebooks because of the high cost of textbooks,6 even though many students reportedly prefer—and would pay more—for paper versions.7

In 2015, we began a partnership in which we asked students to apply what they were learning in their instructional design class to evaluate ebooks and eplatforms. The goal of the course is for students to learn the instructional design process; this includes objectives such as identifying learning needs, analyzing tasks that learners need to be able to accomplish as a result of training, and developing instructional designs based on their analysis. We present a research study about this approach. Our research questions were to learn what affordances and barriers students noted about ebooks and eplatforms (RQ1), as well as how student perceptions of ebook affordances and barriers change over time (RQ2). The objective was to analyze which platforms promoted learning and presented the fewest problems and to use that knowledge to guide future ebook acquisition decisions and interactions with faculty as they selected ebooks for their classes. As the study progressed, we became increasingly interested in how principles of instructional design might be employed to promote use of ebooks as academic resources.

Literature Review

To frame our work, we consider past research on student perceptions and use of ebooks, focusing deliberately on recent research. As our research is unique in following two sections of a graduate instructional design class throughout the semester, we build on research conducted with undergraduate and graduate students in a variety of disciplines and study durations.

The year 2010 could be considered “Year Zero” for ebooks,8 as this was when the iPad was introduced, significantly changing how users interacted with ebooks, especially as the purchase price soon started to decrease for all tablets. Thus, our review focuses primarily on post-2010 publications related to ebooks. We review studies that provide insight into the relationship between perceptions about ebooks and ebook use. We also examine barriers to ebook use, and the use of specific tools within ebooks that may be of benefit. We consider the instructional conditions that help students make effective use of ebooks, grounded in research on how people learn. We note that few studies report on student ebook experience; those that do tend to focus on undergraduate students. Therefore, our choice of a graduate instructional design setting provides a productive space to consider ebooks at the intersection of learning, technology, and design.

Many studies and review articles have investigated students’ attitudes toward ebooks.9 One study reports that graduate students’ pre-existing attitudes toward ebooks in general are a strong predictor of how they perceive and use academic ebooks.10 Similarly, the study from Revelle et al. of faculty, staff, and students (both graduate and undergraduate) identified four reader profiles—book lovers, pragmatists, technophiles, and printers—whose traits influenced their acceptance and use of ebooks.11 Another study found that undergraduate students who had an aesthetic love of print books had a negative perception of ebooks.12 These students described feeling satisfaction with the tangible aspects of the physical book (for example, the sense of progress associated with turning pages), something a scroll bar does not seem to replace.13 They also viewed ebook content as more ephemeral and lacking the authority of print.14 Perhaps related to this, faculty and graduate student ebook users in another study characterized their engagement with ebooks as less intellectual.15

Instructor support may mitigate negative student perceptions about ebooks. A study of undergraduates found that allowing students to choose whether or not to use an ebook can actually encourage them to try an ebook.16 Another study of undergraduate and graduate students found that prior course-based use of an ebook predicts preference for ebooks over print.17 Other surveys of undergraduates and graduates found that increased awareness of ebooks promoted greater rates of use.18 One study reported that students who perceived ebooks to be easy to use tended to use them more.19 Despite these findings, other researchers note that student preference for accessing academic content in print remains strong,20 even with increased exposure and less reliance on dedicated e-readers.21 Students report a preference for print when reading complex texts and attribute this preference, despite initial enthusiasm for the electronic text, to the complexities of using electronic formats and documents effectively.22

Perceptions of ebooks may be shaped by negative experiences with use of this format. There is no shortage of studies reporting on barriers encountered by ebook users. Ebook use is impacted by various factors, such as accessibility, cost, and reading complexity.23 Comfort is another factor. Students in multiple studies report an aversion to reading long texts as ebooks in an effort to avoid eyestrain.24 Other barriers identified in a metasynthesis of research on ebook and print-book usage include hardware and software issues, battery life, and ability to print.25

Ebook interfaces often perplex users. Studies have investigated how students navigate ebooks.26 In one study of undergraduates, students expressed frustration when trying to navigate ebooks, use toolbars, and copy text.27 Other studies found that the undergraduate subjects tended to use ebooks differently from print, searching for information rather than reading.28 Because eplatforms differ, locating the search box is not always straightforward, nor is interpreting the results. One study of undergraduates found that, once students located a term, it was not clear where it was located within the text, a factor that is important when attempting to piece together understanding.29 Similarly, another study that surveyed graduates and undergraduates shared comments on how display choices made by vendors made it difficult for students to find terms and understand context.30 Muir and Hawes noted that student perceptions of a platform’s usability relied heavily on what they wished to do (such as accessing, printing, and sharing content) and whether the particular platform made it challenging to do so.31

Some vendors seek to improve the experience of ebook use by offering tools (such as highlighters and annotation features). Yet several studies show low rates of tool use,32 despite findings that students appreciate these tools.33 In a study of ebook usage across 12 courses, fewer than 10 percent of students used the highlighting or annotation tool substantively.34 Platform differences may explain low tool use. Given the lack of standardization across platforms, students must always do some navigation,35 suggesting they need to be knowledgeable about the tools ebooks afford and need to view the tools as useful. Each platform may offer different tools with unique names and screen placement, presenting a challenge to students who are trying to understand what they can do and how they can do it.36 This may explain students’ struggles to find highlighting and annotating capabilities within ebooks.37 It may also clarify why prior ebook usage does not predict greater likelihood of tool use in subsequent ebook experiences.38

Researchers have also investigated whether students learn differently using ebooks versus print books. Early studies found that students learned less well with ebooks, hypothesizing that this may have been due in part to eyestrain.39 Students in a later study reported overall satisfaction with their ebook use, but they also described how fatigue after reading onscreen undermined their comprehension.40 Recent experimental studies suggest that students have better recall when working with print.41 When learning and comprehension are the goal, students appear to perform better with print books.42

Past research has demonstrated that, under some conditions, students engage with ebooks in a shallow manner,43 in part because distractions are abundant when reading on a web-enabled device, and students report that they tend to multitask while reading ebooks.44 Students tend to skim or scan rather than read for understanding.45 Students also report that they are more likely to revisit and restudy previously read materials if they are in print rather than ebook format.46 Yet other studies have found no difference in comprehension from ebooks versus print,47 finding equivalent performance from ebook and print book users on course learning outcomes.48 Some studies suggest that students who choose to use ebooks over print may even have better self-directed learning skills.49 These divergent findings may reflect the different ways that students interact with ebooks, some of which are more productive for learning than others.50

An overall challenge to understanding ebook use, as well as the potential for ebooks to better support learning involves the scarcity of studies reporting qualitative data about the ebook use experience, particularly how it is shaped over time. In a review of 75 studies of ebooks focusing on usage,51 more than 57 percent were restricted to surveys, with an additional 17 percent that supplemented surveys with usage statistics and 5 percent that focused only on usage statistics. Very few studies (8%) involved interviews about usage, and only 9 percent involved process data of actual usage, either in an experimental or naturalistic setting. Understanding how ebooks might support learning requires data about student processes. For instance, in a study that used photo-elicitation and interviews, we are afforded a glimpse into a student’s point of view.52

Even when instructionally relevant materials are used in studies, most such studies have been focused on a short duration (an hour or less).53 Most semester-long investigations of ebooks in courses have been limited to survey and usage statistics,54 sometimes supplemented with instructor interviews.55 In such cases, the outcome of interest is typically course grades, which are problematic because of their multidimensional nature (many things are measured in a course grade) and their susceptibility to bias and variability across instructors.

Finally, most studies, particularly those that investigate how students use ebooks, have focused on undergraduate populations. Our study addresses these gaps, spanning two semester-long investigations that include multiple forms of data drawn from work with graduate students.

To better understand differences between learning from an ebook versus print, Ackerman and Lauterman compared recall on three types of tasks (untimed, timed, and interrupted) across the two conditions (ebook versus print).56 They found that student recall was lower on the timed and untimed tasks for ebook compared to print. Yet there was no difference between conditions for the interrupted task, in which students were stopped earlier than they expected to be. The authors inferred that students are able to effectively plan self-regulation strategies when working with print but not when working with ebook materials. This finding suggests that it may be possible for ebooks to better support learning if students can be directed—through instructional design supports and learning tasks—to effectively engage the format.

Scholars have called for ebooks and eplatforms to be “developed and implemented according to the principles of sound instructional design.”57 Supporting student use of ebooks means considering the kinds of scaffolds instructors may need to provide58 and, therefore, the kinds of supports librarians may want to focus on in their interactions with faculty.

As we explored student descriptions of affordances and barriers and how those changed over the course of a semester, we also considered how instructional design could better support effective ebook use. The ways we design instructional tasks shape how students engage with resources, including ebooks.59 For instance, researchers have argued that students benefit from practice tests that allow them to calibrate their perceptions against their actual comprehension from ebook reading, although the benefits of this may depend somewhat on student preferences;60 while students who preferred ebooks improved in comprehension as a result of the testing, those with an expressed preference for paper did not. Studies have also demonstrated potential value of ebook tools, which may be thought of as scaffolds. Students who annotated their ebooks tended to receive higher grades.61 The instructor’s use of the ebook can shape student use; when instructors annotated an ebook, students tended to use the tools more.62 New tools, such as visual timelines that make working with annotations easier, can also improve recall.63

However, we also caution that research on learning has clarified that some actions produce “deceptive clarity.”64 For instance, simply highlighting text or adding bookmarks does not lead to greater learning and, further, can lead students to think they have learned something simply because they highlighted or bookmarked. This is evidenced in a study that found students who bookmarked many pages tended to receive higher grades, but only if they also read those pages;65 those who bookmarked without reading actually got lower grades. This may explain students’ tendency to be inaccurate when judging whether they learned from ebook reading, compared to print.66

To support student learning, rather than focusing on making the learning more efficient, we should introduce “desirable difficulties.”67 By introducing a need to intentionally recall information, students’ memories of the information are enhanced. Typically, this means introducing a task or goal.

Studies investigating such approaches have found that students first search for information in ebooks and then work to develop understanding.68 Likewise, when students were given a goal to apply what they were learning in an ebook, those who spent more time reading relevant concepts in their ebook tended to achieve higher learning outcomes, regardless of reading comprehension and prior knowledge.69


Study Design and Research Purpose

We report on two cohorts’ experiences with ebooks. For both cohorts, we positioned students as instructional designers engaged in evaluation of eplatforms with us, as informants on their experiences. Students in cohort 1 engaged with a variety of eplatforms (see figure 1). Influenced by our observations of cohort 1, students in cohort 2 engaged with one eplatform multiple times before working with a second eplatform. We anticipated students would notice affordances of one eplatform, and then look for similar affordances when introduced to a new platform. We were guided by the following research questions—what affordances and barriers would students note about ebooks and eplatforms and would their perceptions change over time whether they used multiple platforms or just one platform? To address this research question, we employed qualitative methods. While the small sample size indeed necessitated such an approach, more important was our desire to shed light on the particularizability of students’ experiences with ebooks and eplatforms.70 There are no clear rules about sample size, but researchers have argued that as few as six participants may provide sufficient data on key constructs, with 12 providing saturation;71 these figures are based in a study that included 90 participants and used probabilistic methods to derive these numbers. However, we acknowledge that the contextual nature and small sample size may limit the transferability of our results.

Figure 1

Course Structure and Study Design for Cohort 1 and Cohort 2

Figure 1. Course Structure and Study Design for Cohort 1 and Cohort 2

Participants, Setting, and Study Materials

Participants included students enrolled in a required master’s level instructional design course at a Hispanic-serving research institution in the southwestern United States (N = 22). In cohort 1 (fall 2015), 12 students provided consent; of these, nine were enrolled in the MA program, two were prospective PhD students, and one was a prospective MA student. Ten students completed all measures. In cohort 2 (fall 2016), 10 students provided consent; of these, six were enrolled in the MA program, two were prospective MA students, one was a PhD student in another program, and one was a prospective PhD student. The program primarily serves working professionals, many of whom return to graduate school later in life. The class met face-to-face for 16 weeks, 150 minutes per week.

In the first week of class, the instructor (one of the authors of this paper) invited the three library researchers to visit the class for discussion of the ebook study. The instructor positioned the students as instructional designers, explaining that they had an important role to play in building understanding of students’ experiences with ebooks, in particular because they would be learning instructional design practices that would help them consider the affordances and barriers of ebooks. The instructor informed the students that the course readings were instructive guides for the assignments and that students should refer to them as they worked on their assignments.

Cohort 1

Our approach with the first study was to have students use a variety of ebook readings from different platforms. The rationale was to encourage exploration of ebooks in the hope that, as students discovered the affordances of a particular ebook platform, they might come to expect and seek out similar affordances in other ebook platforms.

The text chosen by the instructor, Designing Effective Instruction,72 was available through an ebook provider, VitalSource, using the CourseSmart platform. The library team incentivized ebook usage by letting students know that we would cover the costs of renting it. Five students responded to this offer. Other students in the class independently purchased or rented copies of the required text.

The instructor chose additional weekly readings—chapters and journal articles—to support specific learning objectives. Where available, the library team provided links to these readings, using existing vendor platforms offered by EBSCO, EBL, and Books 24x7. As a result, all students in the course accessed and read articles and chapters from multiple vendor platforms, and in their weekly reading commentaries addressed format issues related to interface, eplatform tools, and other issues. Two platforms (e1, e3) were used for no more than two readings (see figure 1).

Cohort 2

After reflecting on experiences from the previous semester, we took a different approach to the second study. We wanted to encourage a deeper exploration of ebook affordances and barriers by requiring regular work with one primary platform and fewer encounters with secondary platforms. Our hope was that a reduced number of interactions with other ebook platforms would position students to provide deeper insights.

The same text was required for the class, but, by this point, it was available via two platforms—Amazon Kindle and the VitalSource CourseSmart platform. We required students to use one of these ebook platforms. The library team incentivized use of the Amazon Kindle version by paying the rental costs. Three students responded to this offer. Other students independently purchased or rented the test through the Kindle or CourseSmart platform.

Many of the same weekly readings assigned to cohort 1 were also assigned to cohort 2. We eliminated one of the platforms based on negative feedback from students in cohort 1. Of the remaining platforms, one was used to access four readings (e2) and the other (e3) was used to access one reading (see figure 1). In addition, during four weeks of the course, the students used only PDF readings.

Data Collection

Data included course assignments and interviews as detailed below.

Reading Responses

We presented the format of weekly readings (that is, ebook chapters from various platforms, PDFs, physical books) as an instructional design problem. As part of their grade for weekly reading responses, students were asked to “explain how you read each article/chapter and if you had any issues or challenges as a result of the format.”

In-class Activities

In both courses, students completed in-class activities that introduced them to various instructional design practices. Students completed an activity to learn about the process of “task analysis.” Conducting a task analysis involves depicting the sequence of steps taken to successfully complete a task and then considering where a novice would need support. For instance, if the task is how to boil an egg, the task analysis would depict (in a flow chart) expert performance of boiling an egg. The task analysis activity in this course consisted of four parts:

  1. Describe how you access the weekly readings, engage with the readings, and write reading responses. What does someone need to know to be able to do them? Draw a flow chart to show the steps involved.
  2. Sketch out a design to teach future students how to access weekly readings, engage with the readings, and write reading responses. Keep in mind the range of experience levels and interests: some students may be second-language learners or have learning differences (like dyslexia); some students are prospective doctoral students, who need the class as a prerequisite; most are current or prospective masters’ students with a strong interest in [this program] but not always with a strong interest in instructional design. Describe the learner needs.
  3. Describe how you would scaffold students to access the weekly readings, engage with the readings, and write reading responses.
  4. How would you assess learning?

Cohort 2 students completed two additional in-class activities related to ebooks. The learning theory activity directed students to articulate the theory of learning instantiated in various designs, including the ebook platforms they were using. By instantiated, we mean that any design for learning has a theory of learning designed into it, whether intentionally or not. Commonly, when a theory of learning is not deliberately designed into a technology, past educational experiences influence the designer, who reifies these as they design. Consider, for example, that when individuals are asked to design an online training, they may base the format on what they have experienced rather than on what research has to say about how people learn. The prototyping activity asked students to mock up a new eplatform and describe how it would be used. They were challenged to consider “a perfect world, an ebook platform would be able to support my learning by (dream big here!)…”


As part of our usability study, we asked all cohort 1 students to volunteer to be interviewed; four students volunteered. Given that it was toward the end of the semester, we were satisfied with a 33 percent response rate. We asked them to “think aloud” as they worked with three eplatforms, including two they had already encountered. We conjectured that, because they had used ebooks for multiple weeks and across platforms, they would be familiar with tools and, when presented with a new platform, would seek these out. We asked them to describe how they used ebooks, what design features they liked and disliked, and frustration points. We documented student comments and actions through field notes.

Students in cohort 2 worked with one ebook platform for most of the semester, and we anticipated this would lead them to identify what they liked and disliked about the platform. We interviewed all students about what their ideal ebook interface would include. We audiorecorded and transcribed these interviews.

Data Analysis

To answer the first research question, which investigated what affordances and barriers students would note about ebooks and eplatforms, we analyzed the in-class activities, interviews, and reading responses in terms of the specific affordances and barriers of ebooks (see table 1). We sought to identify both frequent and unique ideas across students. While a student might comment on the importance of note-taking tools for two or more different readings, we counted this as one affordance. This approach allowed us to compare across students who were more or less prolific in their commenting. We narrowed our focus to descriptions of ebook affordances after finding that student descriptions of print affordances and barriers were frequently juxtaposed with comments about electronic format.

Table 1

Coding Scheme for Specific Ebook Affordances and Barriers

Affordance Codes

Affordance = students mention the factor as something positive or beneficial

Barrier = students mention the factor as something negative or harmful

Online search

searching online for concepts and definitions is possible (Affordance only)


syncing across devices is / is not supported


ebooks can support their learning (Affordance only)


ebooks are / are not convenient or portable


ebooks are an environmentally sound choice (Affordance only)


it is / is not easy to find, browse, or search text passages in an ebook


offline reading is / is not supported


Printing or downloading is / is not easy or possible


the interface, i.e., the look and feel of the ebook, is / is not clear and easy to use

Access difficult

access process, e.g., logins, checking ebooks in/out was cumbersome (Barrier only)


e reading is tiring or physically challenging (e.g., causes eyestrain) (Barrier only)


e reading is uncomfortable (Barrier only)


error message was encountered (Barrier only)

Session timeout

session timed out (Barrier only)

Tool-Specific Codes

Affordance = students found, noticed and/or appreciated the tool

Barrier = students couldn’t find or had difficulty using the desired tool


select text passages from ebook and copy them in another document


overlay color on a text passage to emphasize it


add comments to the text or margins

Searchable text

jump to each instance of a word or phrase

Text size

adjust the text size or font

To answer the second research question, whether their perceptions of affordances and barriers would change over time when they used multiple platforms or just one platform, we developed a coding scheme for the weekly reading responses inductively (see table 2). One study author prepared a scheme with categories defining affordances and barriers associated with print and electronic formats that were described by students. In addition, a category (Print Creative) was developed based on students’ descriptions of strategies for printing parts of an ebook. Each author independently applied this coding scheme to score the 2015 data and then came together to review and discuss any areas of disagreement.73 Through this process, we modified the coding scheme: one initial category relating to the relationship between the format and learning was abandoned after we experienced difficulty applying it consistently because it required too much inference. Instead, we refined the P-afford, P-barrier, E-afford, E-barrier categories to include a level for responses in which a student made a causal statement about a specific barrier or affordance. We also added a category (Device) to gain a clearer picture of the devices students used to access their weekly readings. We independently rescored all data with the final coding scheme (see table 1). Some students wrote multiple sentences and, in some weeks, evaluated more than one format. Therefore, each response could be assigned more than one code.

Table 2

Coding Scheme for Analyzing Reading Responses



Score = 1

Score = 2

Score = 3


Prefers to read hard copy or printed copy, including book

Did not read in hardcopy or print anything

Did read hard copy and/or printed something out (may also have read something electronically


Print Creative

Resists reading electronic formats and describes strategies for getting materials to print

Did not print or only printed easy-to-print

Describes work-arounds / issues navigated to be able to print



Describes an affordance of print format

No specific affordance mentioned

A specific affordance is mentioned

A specific affordance is mentioned, and a causal statement is made about it.


Describes a barrier or challenge of print format

No specific barrier mentioned

A specific barrier is mentioned

A specific barrier is mentioned, and a causal statement is made about it.


Describes an affordance of electronic format

No specific affordance mentioned

A specific affordance is mentioned

A specific affordance is mentioned, and a causal statement is made about it.


Describes a barrier or challenge of electronic format

No specific barrier mentioned

A specific barrier is mentioned

A specific barrier is mentioned, and a causal statement is made about it.


Mentions factors (positive or negative) related to hardware

Nothing about hardware is mentioned

Hardware is mentioned, such as "desktop" "iPhone," "computer screen" etc., but not "screen"

A more complex statement about hardware, whether accurate or suppositional, is included

We calculated averages for each category. To calculate descriptive statistics, we normalized the scores to range from 0 to 1, which allowed us to compare categories that did not use the three-point range.

Results and Discussion

To address our first research question on what affordances and barriers students note about ebooks and eplatforms, we first present our analysis of affordances, followed by an analysis of barriers. For each, we begin with our analysis of the reading responses, noting the number of students who mentioned each affordance or barrier across both cohorts. We triangulate these, providing examples from across our analysis of the reading responses, in-class activities, and interviews.


Interestingly, students mentioned few affordances. The most commonly noted affordances, features of the eplatform that users perceived positively, included readability (32% of students), portability (27%), and navigation (23%) (see figure 2 for all affordances).

Figure 2

Affordances of Ebooks Noted by Multiple Students across Both Cohorts

Figure 2. Bar chart of Affordances of ebooks

(Five students in cohort 1 and nine students in cohort 2 noted affordances.)

For instance, one student explained that he liked the interface, linking it to his ability to use the tools he wanted: “I read the eBook on my iPad within the Kindle app. It’s easy and convenience [sic] to read on my iPad and make highlight and underline with notes.” Another student expressed a more lukewarm appreciation of the interface, “CourseSmart reader is pretty good, once you get used to it.” This comment highlights that it takes time for students to learn the tools. Students appreciated having a clear navigation structure, as noted by a cohort 1 student, “I really like that the page numbers are always visible in the table of contents because when I cite or something I don’t have to scroll up to the top of the page or down to the top of the next page.” Likewise, on the task analysis activity, students spoke to ease of use with navigation. As pointed out by Hernon et al.74 and others, ebook users often struggle when navigating new interfaces and appreciate when navigation structures support rather than hinder their aims. Students often tied portability to a particular device. For example, a cohort 2 student wrote, “I do like the ability to have this book and many others on my iPad. (Much lighter weight).” On the learning theory activity, students who used the PDF Kindle platform mentioned more affordances than those who used other platforms.

Another affordance identified by students was the idea of ebooks as an environmentally responsible choice. For instance, a cohort 2 student explained, “I felt slightly victorious after printing the first two chapters and then decided to spare a tree and read the final chapter (13) on my phone.” These affordances are consistent with perceived benefits of ebooks identified by other studies.75

Even students who expressed appreciation for ebooks were pleased when printing and downloading were supported and easy to achieve. This may reflect a preference for reading academic texts in print as found by Mizrachi.76 Some affordances were only mentioned by a single student. These included reading offline, synchronizing ebooks across devices, and links to external sources for more information.

In terms of the specific tool affordances, students appreciated being able to highlight (41%) and take notes (27%) (see figure 3). The most popular tool-related affordances cited by students were highlighting, note taking, manipulating text size, copying text, and the ability to search the text. In the task analysis activity, most students (76%) across both studies mentioned highlighting as a step in their process of engaging with readings. A cohort 1 student detailed this: “As I read, I can easily highlight/comment on ANYTHING in chapter.” Likewise, students noted highlighting and taking notes in their learning theory activity and prototyping activity. One student discovered and appreciated a tool that generated a formatted citation.

Figure 3

Tool-Related Affordances Noted by Multiple Students across Both Cohorts

Figure 3. Tool-Related Affordances Noted by Multiple Students across Both Cohorts

(Three students in cohort 1 and nine students in cohort 2 noted tool-related affordances.)

Only one student mentioned the dictionary tool in the reading responses, but many, prompted by the instructions, mentioned this on the prototyping activity, suggesting they had not noticed this tool. These features are consistent with findings from other studies,77 though the emphasis on manipulating text size may be more pronounced among this group of students, some of whom also mentioned their age or eyesight issues when noting the importance of text size manipulation.


Overall, students noted more barriers than affordances. This would include not only challenges they encountered with the platform and interface, but also features that actually were included in the platform or interface that they failed to discover. They noted that navigation was difficult (45% of students), that printing or downloading was difficult (36%), that the interface was challenging (32%) (see figure 4), and a number of other barriers encountered in their weekly work with ebooks.

Figure 4

Barriers Noted By Multiple Students across Cohorts

Figure 4. Barriers Noted By Multiple Students across Cohorts

(Ten students in cohort 1 and ten students in cohort 2 noted barriers.)

Students characterized the platform as complex to use. As one student pointed out: “Design is not intuitive to first time users.” Almost all mentioned that the design assumed prior knowledge of the format. One student summarized this well:

“Seems like the designers either thought users had pre-requisite knowledge for certain features or certain features were meant ONLY for power users. Maybe designer thought reading is enough for learning. Maybe the designer did NOT predict that ebooks would be used for education & would be mostly for leisure reading.”

The idea that eplatform design is not intuitive has been noted in previous studies.78 As part of this, navigation issues were noted by a student from cohort 1: “I have no idea how to mark how to navigate back to the page I want with this next and previous stuff. At least with the other readings we had page numbers.”

The complexity of accessing and working with ebooks was particularly visible in the diagrams students produced in their task analysis. These flow charts often involved 20 or more steps. One student included in the flow chart a decision point about how one could seek help if encountering problems with downloading texts. Another student, whose response is captured below (see figure 5), illustrated several pain points with accessing ebooks in the flow chart. Although this response was unique in calling out these problems, the barriers mentioned here—being forced to create an account or getting logged out of readings—were also noted by students across both classes within their individual weekly reading responses.

Figure 5

Task Analysis for Weekly Readings

Figure 5. Task Analysis for Weekly Readings

Students experienced difficulties with access, including requirements to log in or to check out materials, which confused them: “I read the chapter on my Mac through the University Library system. I had no problem accessing the information, but was asked to rent the book after approximately 20 minutes of reading. I am not sure what this means since I was simply asked to click one of two options.” These same issues showed up in the flow charts on the task analysis. Three students across both cohorts mentioned the need to remember login credentials within their flow charts. Two students specifically mentioned access barriers.

Students across both cohorts described challenges with reading online due to a lack of connectivity to networking or power. In some cases, this was articulated as a temporary constraint connected to travel as described by a student from cohort 2: “I was traveling and had a very difficult time finding a hotspot that would support me [sic] reading assignment. When I finally got to the hotel and Wifi, my computer was dead. I needed to charge my surface pro, get on the Wifi and start my reading. I really needed to be able to read this offline. I was on a plane and traveling a lot, access was an issue.” In other cases, the problems persisted across multiple weeks. One student in cohort 1 mentioned problems with wi-fi over three different weeks, and three students experienced problems with session timeouts. Research conducted in other countries has surfaced similar connectivity concerns.79

Students often wanted to print or download and expressed frustration when this was not readily achieved or if the resulting product was subpar: “I decided to print this chapter but it printed with the edges of the text cut off so I reverted to reading this chapter in eFormat as well.”

Five students commented specifically on physical challenges with reading electronic formats. In most cases, this concerned eyestrain or fatigue; for example: “Likewise because I already spend a large amount of time using computers at work my eyes tend to get fatigued from computer screens.” The influence of e-formats on eyestrain has been expressed in other studies.80 On the learning theory assignment, many mentioned the inability to adjust the font size and eyestrain. One student explained, “Hard to read—felt like I was going cross-eyed during the reading. Probably missed something important—a little distracting.” One student included a loop in her task analysis flow chart to illustrate her need to reread electronic text to remember it, something she said was not necessary when reading print. These comments suggest that students were metacognitive in monitoring their comprehension. However, there is also evidence that students did not always know what might support their learning. Three students, all in cohort 2, expressed that reading in e-format was not comfortable, in some cases because of the device, and in other cases because of a desire to be “more cozy.” We argue that some of the ways students wanted to read—particularly reading in bed—may not be supportive of concentrated engagement with any text, whether print or e-text.81

Students also found many tools to be difficult to use (see figure 6). For instance, they particularly noted difficulties with highlighting (32%) and changing the font size (23%). They were disappointed if they experienced difficulty finding or using a particular tool.

Figure 6

Task Analysis for Weekly Readings

Figure 6. Task Analysis for Weekly Readings

(Six students in cohort 1 and six students in cohort 2 noted tool-related barriers.)

Highlighting was the tool students most wanted to access and was most commonly noted when students could not find the capability or figure out how to use it: “I was unable to highlight, make comments, or highlight citations that I want to look up.” Students also expressed concern when they could not easily manipulate text size, as indicated by this student from cohort 1: “Some of the options made little sense—like the small, medium, and large text sizes. Despite using LARGE, I STILL had to use (control+) to zoom to the level I wanted to read at.” Other tools students wanted to use, but could not always find or take advantage of, were copy/paste and note-taking as is cited by this student from cohort 2: “But one of the two articles doesn’t allow me to highlight or take notes, so it took me some time to play around the tools.” These comments are interesting in that students indicated they had to use skills they already possessed, such as keyboard shortcuts (Control +) or “playing around” to make use of tools.

On the task analysis activity, nine students specifically mentioned the need for learners to know about tools and mentioned specific features including text highlighting, text size adjustment, and dictionary look-up. Interestingly, dictionaries did not come up frequently in weekly reading responses. The other features mentioned previously did, but students were not consistently able to find and use them, and then ended up citing them as barriers. These barriers are similar to those found by Muir and Hawes.82

Students consistently saw the need to provide some type of support prior to tool use: “It’s important to show the affordances so you can jump right in using the platform to your advantage, highlighter (auto collecting all your highlights), dictionary, ability to make flash cards, that would make me excited to use the Kindle ebook.” This comment echoes findings in past research that students benefit from having tools modeled for them.83

In our second research question, we sought to understand how students’ perceptions of the affordances and barriers of ebooks changed over time and across platforms. In cohort 1, students were asked to engage with three platforms. In their weekly reading responses, students consistently cited fewer barriers with platform 2 as the semester progressed (see figure 7).

Figure 7

Cohort 1 Students’ Perceptions of Barriers Over Time

Figure 7. Cohort 1 Students’ Perceptions of Barriers Over Time

Interviews with cohort 1 students provided an opportunity to observe how students navigated familiar and unfamiliar eplatforms, with the conjecture that, because they had been exposed to several different eplatforms, this would translate to being able to navigate an unfamiliar eplatform. We did not find evidence for this conjecture. This may be in part to the lack of standardization guiding eplatform design.

Past research has shown that students’ evaluation of ebooks can be platform-dependent and based on the degree to which the particular eplatform affords specific actions.84 Platform 2 appeared to offer functions that students in cohort 1 desired. Thus, we chose to primarily use that platform with cohort 2, hypothesizing that, if students became very familiar with this more well-received platform, they might seek similar affordances when exposed to a new platform. We hoped that, by using a more desirable platform, we could engender favorable attitudes toward ebooks, which could then serve as a foundation for future use of other platforms, given that attitudes seem to predict future perceptions85 and openness to future ebook usage.86

As a result of removing/reducing eplatforms 1 and 3, we added additional PDF readings, which enabled us to draw a comparison between a specific eplatform and PDF format. We compared students’ evaluations of their experiences with eplatform 2 and PDFs, finding that, while students gained confidence using PDFs, they noted more barriers in the ebook platforms over time (see figure 8). We found that, while students perceived fewer barriers over time when using PDFs, they identified more barriers the more they used eplatform 2. This means that, as students became more familiar with the eplatform, they found more to dislike about it. This extends findings elsewhere that continued usage of a variety of platforms does not reduce frustration.87 Our work suggests that even a single, familiar platform may not reduce frustration. It seems that, as the novelty wore off and as students worked to use the text for complex course assignments, they increasingly noticed challenges; this aligns to findings that students prefer print for complex tasks.88

Figure 8

Cohort 2 Students’ Perceptions of Barriers Over Time and by Format

Figure 8. Cohort 2 Students’ Perceptions of Barriers Over Time and by Format

Conclusions and Implications

We investigated extended use of ebooks with two cohorts in a semester-long instructional design course. We found that students noted many more barriers than affordances. Common barriers included difficulties navigating and printing/downloading. Based on findings from cohort 1 that a particular platform was more desirable than others, we investigated sustained use of that platform with cohort 2, finding that increasing familiarity brought increased frustrations, as illustrated in figure 8. We expand on our findings and discuss implications below.

Our findings expand most previous research by investigating students’ perceptions of ebooks in an authentic learning environment for a long duration. This study adds to the existing literature in finding that ebooks continue to frustrate and disappoint students and that continued use of ebooks seems to reinforce the disappointment rather than mitigate it. Whether they were ebook enthusiasts or averse to ebooks, all students in this study experienced and expressed frustration with the ebooks they encountered.

Implications for Librarians

Since libraries have invested heavily in ebooks as a means of supplying academic content, librarians hold much responsibility for improving the ebook experience. This can happen through purchasing decisions, vendor communication, and ongoing user engagement. Purchasing is a critical indicator of the utility and value of an ebook platform. Although ebooks today offer more options and fewer restrictions than their forerunners, it is necessary to continue advocacy for better ebooks/eplatforms that facilitate the types of teaching and research tasks in which users are engaged. Thomas and Chilton note that academic libraries are the principal buyers of academic content and “have a duty to advocate for what users need,”89 which also means that libraries should not purchase or sustain contracts with ebook vendors who persist in providing a product that is difficult to access and use. Feedback from students in this study contributed to the library’s decision to cancel one ebook package that requires users to create a separate account and provide an email address, which is subsequently used to push announcements of new material. Students—even those who considered themselves ebook enthusiasts—critiqued such business practices.

Such information can also be communicated to vendors, helping them understand how ebooks are used on your campus. This can strengthen even effective platforms by helping vendors understand the need for unlimited use and perpetual access rights for needed texts.

Implications for Instructors and Learning

Effective advocacy necessitates an understanding of how users want to use ebooks. Within the teaching context, it is critical to know if instructors are assigning ebooks as primary or supplemental texts and if students should read cover-to-cover or parts. This information can promote better decision making when considering an ebook platform that may restrict printing or downloading or limit simultaneous use. One student in this study told the authors that she was a “little concerned” about not having a print text that she could easily highlight and annotate, but she felt increasingly comfortable once she understood that she would not need to memorize and reproduce specific information. Understanding instructors’ intentions can help librarians and instructors alike in determining whether a specific format or even a method of access (library supplied versus student purchased or leased) will support pedagogical goals. Given the high costs of academic material and sustained concerns with textbook affordability, these questions must play a central role in purchasing decisions.

When choosing books for their course—and attending to the high cost of textbooks—faculty might choose an ebook over other formats, not realizing the impact this might have. A key role for librarians at this time is to consider the information faculty might benefit from, such as using annotations to encourage interactive use with the ebook.90 From our own experience, it is important to demo the interface(s) the students will experience, as the faculty member is likely working with a different platform provided by the publisher as a desk copy.

Based on our analysis of students’ experiences, we see a clear need for better scaffolding of tools in eplatforms. Although some students may experiment and find affordances of ebooks, others won’t without scaffolding. Designing such scaffolds can be done by librarians, vendors, and instructors. Without stronger built-in support from vendors, users are unlikely to realize the affordances ebooks offer. However, learning to use tools in one platform does not appear to transfer to other platforms. Resources developed in-house could showcase eplatform tools and guide users through activities to learn how tools function across platforms. Instructors could reinforce ebook tool use by helping students develop strategies for learning with ebooks and including assignments that support the development of such strategies. Instructors can also share with students their rationale for using ebooks and model ways to use eplatform tools effectively. Again, because instructors may be accessing their ebook with a different platform, collaboration with librarians may be key.

Limitations and Future Directions

Our study was conducted in a unique setting—an academic program housed in a library at a Hispanic-serving research university. Our findings may not replicate to other settings directly, though our approach of extended engagement with students enhances transferability.

The interviews with cohort 1 students were conducted with a small subset of students and were not audiorecorded. This limited our ability to draw strong inferences about the whole class, although the insights from the interviews did reinforce our concerns about using multiple eplatforms in one course.

It is possible that more experienced or technically facile users will be even more dissatisfied, given the relative ease of use they experience with other technologies and hope to enjoy with ebooks. As students of instructional design, participants in this study were instead struck by the features that ebooks did not offer, such as easy customization of text display, the ability to highlight and annotate, or interactive features such as embedded media content.

Future studies could investigate the impact of embedding resources into ebook platforms and providing instructional materials for instructors to use in their courses. More research is needed to understand the kinds of resources that could be beneficial, given the variety of ways instructors envision students using ebooks. Such studies should investigate whether use of such resources in authentic learning situations leads students to continue using tools that they see affordances in and whether these contribute to increased satisfaction with and learning from ebooks.


1. Nancy M. Foasberg, “Adoption of E-Book Readers among College Students: A Survey,” Information Technology and Libraries 30, no. 3 (2011): 108–28.

2. Nancy M. Foasberg, “Adoption of E-Book Readers among College Students”; Gemma Walsh, “Screen and Paper Reading Research: A Literature Review,” Australian Academic & Research Libraries 47, no. 3 (2016): 160–73.

3. Adam Girard, “Reader’s Block: A Systematic Review of Barriers to Adoption, Access and Use in E-Book User Studies,” Information Research: An International Electronic Journal 19, no. 2 (2014): 14–29.

4. J.J. Gibson, “The Theory of Affordances,” in Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing: Toward an Ecological Psychology, eds. Robert Shaw and John Bransford (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1977), 127–43.

5. “NAPLeS Members,” Network of Academic Learning Programs in the Learning Sciences, n.d., available online at http://isls-naples.psy.lmu.de/programs/index.html [accessed 28 October 2018].

6. Sung W. Ji, Sherri Michaels, and David Waterman, “Print vs. Electronic Readings in College Courses: Cost-Efficiency and Perceived Learning,” The Internet and Higher Education 21, no. (2014): 17–24; Cheryl A. Cuillier and Jason C. Dewland, “Understanding the Key Factors for E-Textbook Integration into a Business Course: A Case Study,” Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship 19, no. 1 (2014): 32–60.

7. Regis Terpend, Thomas F. Gattiker, and Scott E. Lowe, “Electronic Textbooks: Antecedents of Students’ Adoption and Learning Outcomes,” Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education 12, no. 2 (2014): 149–73.

8. Bernd W. Becker, “Ebooks in the Library: The Current State of Research,” Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian 34, no. 4 (2015): 231.

9. Barbara Blummer and Jeffrey Kenton, “Best Practices for Integrating E-Books in Academic Libraries: A Literature Review from 2005 to Present,” Collection Management 37, no. 2 (2012): 65–97; Wendy A. Shelburne, “E-Book Usage in an Academic Library: User Attitudes and Behaviors,” Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services 33, no. 2/3 (2009): 59–72.

10. Kenneth M. Desson, “Factors That Influence Attitudes to, and Engagement with, E-Textbooks Assigned as Required Course Readings among Mid-Career Learners in Online Graduate Studies,” Athabasca University (2015), available online at http://hdl.handle.net/10791/142 [accessed 2 November 2018].

11. Andy Revelle et al., “Book Lovers, Technophiles, Pragmatists, and Printers: The Social and Demographic Structure of User Attitudes toward E-Books,” College & Research Libraries 73, no. 5 (2012): 420–29.

12. Alice Keller, “In Print or on Screen? Investigating the Reading Habits of Undergraduate Students Using Photo-Diaries and Photo-Interviews,” Libri 62, no. 1 (2012): 1–18.

13. Keller, “In Print or on Screen?”

14. Keller, “In Print or on Screen?”

15. Amy E. Hoseth and Merinda McLure, “Perspectives on E-Books from Instructors and Students in the Social Sciences,” Reference & User Services Quarterly 51, no. 3 (2012): 278–88.

16. Madison N. Ngafeeson and Jun Sun, “The Effects of Technology Innovativeness and System Exposure on Student Acceptance of E-Textbooks,” Journal of Information Technology Education: Research 14 (2015): 55–71.

17. Alan Dennis, “E-Textbooks at Indiana University: A Summary of Two Years of Research,” Indiana University, IRB 912000863, no. 1003001166 (2011): 0908000546, available online at https://assets.uits.iu.edu/pdf/eText%20Pilot%20Data%202010-2011.pdf [accessed 14 January 2020].

18. Sara Samuel et al., “Students, Vendor Platforms, and E-Textbooks: Using E-Books as E-Textbooks,” ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings (2013), available online at http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/98430 [accessed 2 November 2018].

19. Ngafeeson and Sun, “The Effects of Technology Innovativeness and System Exposure on Student Acceptance of E-Textbooks.”

20. Diane Mizrachi, “Undergraduates’ Academic Reading Format Preferences and Behaviors,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 41, no. 3 (2015): 301–11.

21. Alexander J. Carroll et al., “E-Book Perceptions and Use in Stem and Non-Stem Disciplines: A Comparative Follow-up Study,” portal: Libraries and the Academy 16, no. 1 (2016): 131–62.

22. Walsh, “Screen and Paper Reading Research.”

23. Mizrachi, “Undergraduates’ Academic Reading Format Preferences and Behaviors.”

24. Keller, “In Print or on Screen?”

25. Girard, “Reader’s Block.”

26. Peter Hernon et al., “E-Book Use by Students: Undergraduates in Economics, Literature, and Nursing,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 33, no. 1 (2007): 3–13.

27. Kendall Hobbs and Diane Klare, “Are We There Yet?: A Longitudinal Look at E-Books Through Students’ Eyes,” Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 28 no. 1 (2016): 9–24, doi: 10.1080/1941126X.2016.1130451.

28. Keller, “In Print or on Screen?”; Jeff Staiger, “How E-Books Are Used,” Reference & User Services Quarterly 51, no. 4 (2012): 355–65.

29. Laura Muir and Graeme Hawes, “The Case for E-Book Literacy: Undergraduate Students’ Experience with E-Books for Course Work,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 39, no. 3 (2013): 260–74.

30. Samuel et al., “Students, Vendor Platforms, and E-Textbooks.”

31. Muir and Hawes, “The Case for E-Book Literacy.”

32. Mizrachi, “Undergraduates’ Academic Reading Format Preferences and Behaviors”; Sam Van Horne, Jae-eun Russell, and Kathy L. Schuh, “The Adoption of Mark-up Tools in an Interactive E-Textbook Reader,” Educational Technology Research and Development 64, no. 3 (2016): 407–33.

33. Troy Jones and Carol Brown, “Reading Engagement: A Comparison between E-Books and Traditional Print Books in an Elementary Classroom,” International Journal of Instruction 4, no. 2 (2011): 5–22.

34. Dennis, “E-Textbooks at Indiana University.”

35. Beth E. Jacoby and Michelle Flinchbaugh, “Biz of Acq-Student Attitudes toward Academic Use of Ebooks,” Against the Grain 25, no. 5 (2013): 66.

36. Foasberg, “Adoption of E-Book Readers Among College Students”; Yen-Yu Kang, Mao-Jiun J. Wang, and Rungtai Lin, “Usability Evaluation of E-Books,” Displays 30, no.2 (2009): 49–52.

37. Hobbs and Klare, “Are We There Yet?”

38. Sam Van Horne, Jae-eun Russell, and Kathy L. Schuh, “The Adoption of Mark-Up Tools in an Interactive e-Textbook Reader,” Educational Technology Research and Development 64, no. 3 (2016): 407–33.

39. Foasberg, “Adoption of E-Book Readers among College Students”; Yen-Yu Kang, Mao-Jiun J. Wang, and Rungtai Lin, “Usability Evaluation of E-Books,” Displays 30, no. 2 (2009): 49–52.

40. Hanho Jeong, “A Comparison of the Influence of Electronic Books and Paper Books on Reading Comprehension, Eye Fatigue, and Perception,” The Electronic Library 30, no. 3 (2012): 390–408.

41. Lauren M. Singer and Patricia A. Alexander, “Reading across Mediums: Effects of Reading Digital and Print Texts on Comprehension and Calibration,” Journal of Experimental Education 85, no. 1 (2017): 155–72.

42. Ane Landøy, Angela Repanovici, and Almuth Gastinger, “The More They Tried It the Less They Liked It: Norwegian and Romanian Student’s Response to Electronic Course Material,” Information Literacy: Moving Toward Sustainability (Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2015), 455–63.

43. Anne Mangen, “Hypertext Fiction Reading: Haptics and Immersion,” Journal of Research in Reading 31, no. 4 (2008): 404–19.

44. David B. Daniel and William D. Woody, “E-Textbooks at What Cost? Performance and Use of Electronic V. Print Texts,” Computers & Education 62 (2013): 18–23.

45. Keller, “In Print or On Screen?”

46. Mizrachi, “Undergraduates’ Academic Reading Format Preferences and Behaviors.”

47. Walsh, “Screen and Paper Reading Research.”

48. Amanda J. Rockinson-Szapkiw et al., “Electronic Versus Traditional Print Textbooks: A Comparison Study on the Influence of University Students’ Learning,” Computers & Education 63 (2013): 259–66.

49. Amanda J. Rockinson-Szapkiw, Jillian Wendt, and Rebecca Lunde, “Electronic Versus Print Textbooks: The Influence of Textbook Format on University Students’ Self-Regulated Learning Strategies, Motivation, and Text Anxiety,” American Journal of Distance Education 27, no. 3 (2013): 179–88.

50. Van Horne, Russell, and Schuh, “The Adoption of Mark-up Tools in an Interactive E-Textbook Reader.”

51. Girard, “Reader’s Block.”

52. Keller, “In Print or on Screen?”

53. Muir and Hawes, “The Case for E-Book Literacy.”

54. Cuillier and Dewland, “Understanding the Key Factors for E-Textbook Integration into a Business Course”; Dennis, “E-Textbooks at Indiana University.”

55. Van Horne, Russell, and Schuh, “The Adoption of Mark-up Tools in an Interactive E-Textbook Reader.”

56. Rakefet Ackerman and Tirza Lauterman, “Taking Reading Comprehension Exams on Screen or on Paper? A Metacognitive Analysis of Learning Texts under Time Pressure,” Computers in Human Behavior 28, no. 5 (2012): 1816–28.

57. Van Horne, Russell, and Schuh, “The Adoption of Mark-up Tools in an Interactive E-Textbook Reader,” 408.

58. Van Horne, Russell, and Schuh, “The Adoption of Mark-up Tools in an Interactive E-Textbook Reader.”

59. David Reinking, “Multimedia and Engaged Reading in a Digital World,” in Literacy and Motivation: Reading Engagement in Individuals and Groups, eds. Ludo Verhoeven and Catherine E. Snow (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2001): 195–221.

60. Tirza Lauterman and Rakefet Ackerman, “Overcoming Screen Inferiority in Learning and Calibration,” Computers in Human Behavior 35, suppl. C (2014): 455–63.

61. Dennis, “E-Textbooks at Indiana University.”

62. Cuillier and Dewland, “Understanding the Key Factors for E-Textbook Integration into a Business Course”; Dennis, “E-Textbooks at Indiana University.”

63. Lauterman and Ackerman, “Overcoming Screen Inferiority in Learning and Calibration.”

64. Marcia C. Linn et al., “Can Desirable Difficulties Overcome Deceptive Clarity in Scientific Visualizations?” in Successful Remembering and Successful Forgetting: A Festschrift in Honor of Robert A. Bjork, ed. Aaron S. Benjamin (New York, NY: Routledge, 2010): 239–62.

65. Van Horne, Russell, and Schuh, “The Adoption of Mark-up Tools in an Interactive E-Textbook Reader.”

66. Ackerman and Lauterman, “Taking Reading Comprehension Exams on Screen or on Paper?”

67. Linn et al., “Can Desirable Difficulties Overcome Deceptive Clarity in Scientific Visualizations?”; E.L. Bjork and Robert A. Bjork, “Making Things Hard on Yourself, but in a Good Way: Creating Desirable Difficulties to Enhance Learning,” in Psychology and the Real World: Essays Illustrating Fundamental Contributions to Society, eds. Morton Ann Gernsbacher et al. (New York, NY: Worth Publishers, 2011): 56–64; Robert A. Bjork, “Memory and Metamemory Considerations in the Training of Human Beings,” in Metacognition: Knowing About Knowing, eds. Janet Metcalfe and Arthur P. Shimamura (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994): 185–205.

68. Muir and Hawes, “The Case for E-Book Literacy.”

69. Sarah A. Sullivan and Sadhana Puntambekar, “Learning with Digital Texts: Exploring the Impact of Prior Domain Knowledge and Reading Comprehension Ability on Navigation and Learning Outcomes,” Computers in Human Behavior 50 (2015): 299–313.

70. Frederick Erickson, “Qualitative Methods in Research on Teaching,” in Handbook of Research on Teaching, ed. M.C. Wittrock (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1986), 119–61.

71. Greg Guest, Arwen Bunce, and Laura Johnson, “How Many Interviews Are Enough? An Experiment with Data Saturation and Variability,” Field Methods 18, no. 1 (2006): 59–82.

72. Gary R. Morrison et al., Designing Effective Instruction (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2010).

73. D. Hammer and L.K. Berland, “Confusing Claims for Data: A Critique of Common Practices for Presenting Qualitative Research on Learning,” Journal of the Learning Sciences 32, no. 1 (2014): 37–46.

74. Peter Hernon et al., “E-Book Use by Students: Undergraduates in Economics, Literature, and Nursing,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 33, no. 1 (2007): 3–13.

75. Foasberg, “Adoption of E-Book Readers among College Students”; Girard, “Reader’s Block”; Kang, Wang, and Lin, “Usability Evaluation of E-Books”; Ming-der Wu and Shih-chuan Chen, “Graduate Students’ Usage of and Attitudes Towards E-Books: Experiences from Taiwan,” Program 45, no. 3 (2011): 294–307; Devendra Potnis et al., “Factors Influencing Undergraduate Use of E-Books: A Mixed Methods Study,” Library & Information Science Research 40, no. 2 (2018): 106–17.

76. Mizrachi, “Undergraduates’ Academic Reading Format Preferences and Behaviors.”

77. Girard, “Reader’s Block”; Hobbs and Klare, “Are We There Yet?”

78. Hobbs and Klare, “Are We There Yet?”

79. Anna Leonard and Maritha Snyman, “E-books: Yes or No? A Case Study of Undergraduate Students at the University of Namibia,” Collection and Curation 38 no. 3 (2019) 78–88.

80. Foasberg, “Adoption of E-Book Readers among College Students”; Keller, “In Print or on Screen?”; Kang, Wang, and Lin, “Usability Evaluation of E-Books”; Kara Sage et al., “Reading from Print, Computer, and Tablet: Equivalent Learning in the Digital Age,” Education and Information Technologies (2019): 1–26.

81. Foasberg, “Adoption of E-Book Readers among College Students”; Hanho Jeong, “A Comparison of the Influence of Electronic Books and Paper Books on Reading Comprehension, Eye Fatigue, and Perception,” The Electronic Library 30, no. 3 (2012): 390–408.

82. Muir and Hawes, “The Case for E-Book Literacy.”

83. Cuillier and Dewland, “Understanding the Key Factors for E-Textbook Integration into a Business Course”; Dennis, “E-Textbooks at Indiana University.”

84. Samuel et al., “Students, Vendor Platforms, and E-Textbooks.”

85. Desson, “Factors That Influence Attitudes to, and Engagement with, E-Textbooks Assigned as Required Course Readings among Mid-Career Learners in Online Graduate Studies.”

86. Ngafeeson and Sun, “The Effects of Technology Innovativeness and System Exposure on Student Acceptance of E-Textbooks”; Samuel et al., “Students, Vendor Platforms, and E-Textbooks.”

87. Hobbs and Klare, “Are We There Yet?”

88. Walsh, “Screen and Paper Reading Research.”

89. Joelle Thomas and Galadriel Chilton, “Library E-Book Platforms Are Broken: Let’s Fix Them,” in Academic e-Books: Publishers, Librarians, and Users, eds. Suzanne M. Ward, Robert S. Freeman, and Judith M. Nixon (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2016), 249–62.

90. Cuillier and Dewland, “Understanding the Key Factors for E-Textbook Integration into a Business Course.”

* Cindy Pierard is Director of Access Services and Undergraduate Engagement and Assistant Professor, email: cpierard@unm.edu; Vanessa Svihla is Associate Professor, Organization, Information & Learning Sciences, email: vsvihla@unm.edu; Susanne K. Clement is Director of Collections and Associate Professor, email: sclement@unm.edu; and Bing-Shan Fazio is Data Manager, email: bsfazio@unm.edu, all at the University of New Mexico. ©2020 Cindy Pierard, Vanessa Svihla, Susanne K. Clement, and Bing-Shan Fazio, Attribution-NonCommercial (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) CC BY-NC.

Copyright Cindy Pierard, Vanessa Svihla, Susanne K. Clement, Bing-Shan Fazio

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Article Views (Last 12 Months)

No data available

Contact ACRL for article usage statistics from 2010-April 2017.

Article Views (By Year/Month)

January: 0
February: 3
March: 628
April: 93