May 16, 2022

Research Preprint: Are e-Readers Suitable Tools For Scholarly Work?

The following article has been accepted for publication in Online Information Review.


Are e-Readers Suitable Tools For Scholarly Work?


Siegfried Schomisch
Liebniz Institute for Social Sciences

Maria Zens

Philipp Mayr


via arXiv


This paper aims to offer insights into the usability, acceptance and limitations of e-readers with regard to the specific requirements of scholarly text work. To fit into the academic workflow non-linear reading, bookmarking, commenting, extracting text or the integration of non-textual elements must be supported. A group of social science students were questioned about their experiences with electronic publications for study purposes. This same group executed several text-related tasks with the digitized material presented to them in two different file formats on four different e-readers. Their performances were subsequently evaluated by means of frequency analyses in detail. Findings – e-Publications have made advances in the academic world; however e-readers do not yet fit seamlessly into the established chain of scholarly text-processing focusing on how readers use material during and after reading. Our tests revealed major deficiencies in these techniques. With a small number of participants (n=26) qualitative insights can be obtained, not representative results. Further testing with participants from various disciplines and of varying academic status is required to arrive at more broadly applicable results. Practical implications – Our test results help to optimize file conversion routines for scholarly texts. We evaluated our data on the basis of descriptive statistics and abstained from any statistical significance test. The usability test of e-readers in a scientific context aligns with both studies on the prevalence of e-books in the sciences and technical test reports of portable reading devices. Still, it takes a distinctive angle in focusing on the characteristics and procedures of textual work in the social sciences and measures the usability of e-readers and file-features against these standards.

Direct to Full Text (22 pages; PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.