May 23, 2022

Journal Article: “Research on E-book Usage in Academic Libraries: ‘Tame’ Solution Or A ‘Wicked Problem’?”

The following article appears in a recently published issue of the South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science.


Research on E-book Usage in Academic Libraries: ‘Tame’ Solution Or A ‘Wicked Problem’?

Shelley Wilkin
MLIS Graduate, University of South Africa

Peter Graham Underwood
Emeritus Professor of the University of South Africa


South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science

Vol 81, No. 2 (2015)


The result of a systematic analysis of the literature on research about the usage of e-books in academic libraries published in the United States and the United Kingdom between 2004 and 2014 is examined.

Commonalities were identified amongst the articles, together with factors such as questions asked, user response and the research methods that were used. Several areas of deficiency were identified in the conduct of the research and, in order to contextualise the issues, Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber’s (1973) characteristics of a ‘wicked problem’ and a ‘tame problem’ were used as a framework. It was concluded that e-book usage does exhibit several of the characteristics of a wicked problem, and uncertainty about the exact nature of the problem will remain until further research.

Direct to Full Text Article (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.