May 24, 2022

Research Article: “The Secret Lives of Ebooks: A Paratextual Analysis Illuminates a Veil of Usage Statistics”

The following article was recently published online by Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies.  The link below is to an open access version of the article made available by one of the authors.


The Secret Lives of Ebooks: A Paratextual Analysis Illuminates a Veil of Usage Statistics


Jonathan H. Harwell
Rollins College

Erin Gallagher
Reed College


Rollins Scholarship Online
Faculty Publications 187 (2018)

Published Version:


This study applies the method of paratextual analysis to six electronic books, or ebooks, in an academic library collection at a small liberal arts college. Two books are selected from each of three platforms: ebrary, EBSCO, and SpringerLink. The characteristics of each book are described, including design and readership, as well as 2 years of usage statistics from the specific library, and altmetrics where available. The paratextual study leads to a closer investigation of the usage statistics themselves and concludes that despite industry standards, they are not calculated consistently across vendor platforms and that while these data are invisible to researchers outside of the library, there are also essential elements that librarians mistakenly take at face value when comparing ebook usage from multiple vendors.

Direct to Full Text Article
28 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.