Library e-Book Usability

Since the onset of the pandemic in March, e-Books have occupied a position of higher importance in library collections. They allow for the easy circulation of library resources without patrons ever needing to enter the library building thus possibly infecting our staff or vice versa. This shift to e-Books was swift and now the library will even purchase an e-Book before circulating a physical copy. You can read more about the library’s Electronic-First Access Strategy on the Covid-19 Response page. This strategy is potentially saving lives but it is important to acknowledge some of the challenges for users that e-Books present. I have personally struggled with using library e-Books for class work and research and I identify as a pretty advanced library user. For years many users have avoided e-Books in favor of print copies in order to bypass usability problems.

Lets explore some of the most common usability problems for library e-Books. I conducted a brief literature review of recent publications on the usability of e-Books for library users. Below are the top 4 themes that I noticed in the literature:

1.) Every e-Book platform is different

Every single library electronic resource vendor has a different user interface. Some of them are better than others and I am not here to name names. The problem emerges when users are asked to learn new platforms. They will become frustrated quickly by poorly designed interfaces with steep learning curves. It would be easier for our users if vendors standardized their interfaces so users don’t have to continue figuring out how to use a different website every time they check out an e-Book.

2.) Interfaces can be “cluttered”

Often times when you open an e-Book using a vendor’s site the text will be surrounded by different features and tool-bars. Examples of these features include: table of contents, citation tools, note-taking capabilities, arrow navigation buttons, and more. Sometimes these features can provide increased functionality.  However, a lot of the time these tools and pop-ups distract from the text. Additionally, users complain that the cluttered e-Book displays can make it harder to enhance the size of the text for improved readability thus creating an accessibility problem. This problem could be solved if vendors conduct thorough user testing or work alongside librarians to ascertain which features are commonly used by our end-users and remove those features that are simply taking up space.

3.) Difficulties with citations 

Have you ever noticed how some e-Books don’t have page numbers? Or they do but they change when you increase the text size? This was a common complaint among e-Book users who expressed frustration generating accurate citations using e-Books because page numbers were inconsistent. Users did not have this problem when e-Books could be viewed as a PDF because formatting remained consistent. The solution to this is to have standardized page numbers and formatting for e-Books. Additionally, it is important to educate our users that when citing an e-Book they need to specify that in their bibliography because the page numbering will most likely be different from the print version of the same book.

4.) Navigational challenges

In order to gain access to the full text of an e-Book users often have to navigate through many webpages first. They may start at the library catalog, then go to bibliographic record, then choose between several links to access the book through the vendor site, then they are asked to log-in to the vendor site, then they need to navigate to the correct chapter using the navigational toolbar, etc, etc, etc. All of this takes a lot of time, patience, and knowledge. Something could go wrong at any point of the process between finding the book in the catalog and accessing the text. I for one, can never figure out how to log-in to the different vendor sites. For our users who may not be as comfortable navigating in the digital world, this creates a huge barrier to access. I think it’s important for us as librarians and library staff to know the ins and outs accessing our resources. Additionally, we need to keep an open line of communication with vendors and publishers to help them provide our users with the best product possible.

Resources consulted

Alkawaz, M. H., Segar, S. D., & Ali, I. R. (2020). A Research on the Perception and use of Electronic Books Among it Students in Management & Science University. 2020 16th IEEE International Colloquium on Signal Processing & Its Applications (CSPA), Signal Processing & Its Applications (CSPA), 2020 16th IEEE International Colloquium On, 52–56. https://doi-org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/10.1109/CSPA48992.2020.9068716

Jaffy, M. (2020). Bento-Box User Experience Study at Franklin University. Information Technology & Libraries39(1), 1–20. https://doi-org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/10.6017/ital.v39i1.11581

Landry Mueller, K., Valdes, Z., Owens, E., & Williamson, C. (2019). Where’s the EASY Button? Uncovering E-Book Usability. Reference & User Services Quarterly59(1), 44–65.

Tracy, D. G. (2018). Format Shift: Information Behavior and User Experience in the Academic E-book Environment. Reference & User Services Quarterly58(1), 40–51. https://doi-org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/10.5860/rusq.58.1.6839

 

Creating Accessible Slides for Presentations and Online Posting

Making presentations accessible is important, whether in a classroom, in a meeting, or any situation you find yourself delivering information to an audience. Now, more learning than ever is taking place online where inaccessible content can create unequal learning opportunities.

Do you want to learn what it takes to make an accessible presentation? Read on for information about creating accessible slides for both live and recorded presentations!

Thinking about Universal Design

Universal Design is the idea that things should be created so that the most people possible can make use of them. What might be considered an accommodation for one person may benefit many others. The following tips can be considered ways to improve the learning experience for all participants.

Live and Recorded Presentations

Whether your presentation is happening in-person, live virtually, or asynchronously, there are several steps you can take to make your slides accessible.

1. Use a large font size.

During in-person presentations, participants may have trouble seeing if they are sitting far away or have impaired sight. In the virtual environment, participants may be tuning in on a phone or tablet and a larger font will help them see better on a small screen.

Image reads "this text is way too small" in 12 point font.

Example of text that is too small to read from a distance, phone, or tablet in 12 point font.

Image reads "This text is big enough to read" in size 28 font

Example of text that is big enough to read from a distance in 28 point font.

2. Use sans serif fonts.

Fonts like Calibri, Franklin Gothic Book, Lucida Sans, and Segoe are the most accessible to people with reading comprehension disabilities. Leaving plenty of white space makes your slides both more readable and more visually appealing.

3. Minimize text on slides.

People who can’t see the slides may be missing out on important content, and too much text can distract from what you’re saying. When you do include text, read everything out loud.

Image of a slide with too much text. Slide is completely filled with text.

Example of a slide with too much text.

Image of a slide with the right amout of text, including three main bullet points and a few sub bullets not in complete sentences.

Example of a slide with the right amount of text.

4. Use high contrast colors.

High contrast colors can more easily be seen by someone with a visual impairment (black and white is a reliable option). Always explain your color-codes for people who can’t see them and so all participants are on the same page.

Top half contains dark blue background with white text reading "this is high contrast". Bottom half contains light blue background with white text reading "this is low contrast"

Examples of slide font and background using high and low contrast colors.

5. Summarize all charts and images.

Images and charts should also be explained fully so that all participants understand what you are communicating.

6. Use closed captions.

For recorded presentations, both PowerPoint and Google slides allow you to add closed captions to your video or audio file. For live sessions, consider using subtitles or creating a live transcription. Technology Services offers instructions on how activate subtitles for Zoom meetings.

Posting Slides Online

Virtual presentations should be recorded when possible as our usual participants may be in other time zones, experiencing technology issues, or dealing with a countless list of challenges brought on by the pandemic or life.

Posting your slides online in an accessible format is another way to make that information available.

1. Use built in slide designs.

Slide designs built into PowerPoint and Google Slides are formatted to be read in the correct order by a screen reader. If you need to make adjustments, PowerPoint allows you to check over and adjust the reading order of your slides.

Screenshot of office theme slide designs in MS PowerPoint.

Built-in slide designs in MS PowerPoint.

2. Give all slides a title.

Titles assist people who are reading the document with a screen reader or are taking notes and allow all readers to navigate the document more easily.

3. Add alt-text to all images.

Alternative text allows screen readers to describe images. Use concise, descriptive language that captures the motivation for including the image on the slide.

4. Use meaningful hyperlinks.

Both screen readers and the human eye struggle to read long hyperlinks. Instead, use descriptive hyperlinks that make clear where the link is going to take the reader.

Examples of inaccessible hyperlinks

Examples of inaccessible or non-descriptive hyperlinks.

Example of a descriptive hyperlink

Example of an accessible and descriptive hyperlink.

5. Create a handout and save it as a PDF.

Finally, always include your speaker’s notes when posting slides online as the slides themselves only contain a fraction of what you will be communicating in your presentation.

Example of a slide with speaker's notes saved as a handout

Example of a slide with speaker’s notes saved as a handout.

It is always easier to make your presentation accessible from the start. By keeping these tips in mind, you can make sure your content can be used by the widest audience possible and help create a more inclusive learning environment!

For more information about how to use and apply these features, check out the following resources:

Blogs for All: Making Accessible Posts in WordPress

As blogs continue to provide a low barrier to entry for authors to distribute content in all avenues from academia to entertainment, it is important to make sure that blog posts are just as easy to access for readers. Here at Illinois, our blogs are run through publish.illinois.edu, a WordPress-based publishing service. As we try to improve our services for all, especially our remotely available services, I wanted to use this week’s Commons Knowledge post to discuss improving accessibility in WordPress. Within the platform, making more accessible blog posts isn’t difficult nor does it require much time; however, building these practices into our workflow allows for posts to be accessible—not just for some, but for all.

Wordpress logo - a gray W in a circle

Continue reading

Choosing an OCR Software: ABBYY FineReader vs. Adobe Acrobat Pro

What is OCR? OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. This is the electronic identification and digital encoding of typed or printed text by means of an optical scanner or a specialized software. Performing OCR allows computers to read static images of text to convert them to readable, editable, and searchable data on a page. There are many applications of OCR including the creation of more accessible documents for the blind and visually-impaired, text/data mining projects, textual comparisons, and large-scale digitization projects.

There are a different software options to consider when you are performing OCR on you documents and it can be challenging to understand which one is best for you. So let’s break it down. Continue reading