Made-Up eBook Physics

Some reflections on reading a subscription based, “scholarly” ebook just now…

First, I can read the book online, or download it.


If I download it I need to get myself a special pair of spectacles to the read magic ink it’s written it.

I also need to say how long I want to the “loan period” to be. (I don’t know if this is metered according to multiples of 24 hours, or end the of the calendar based return day.) At the end of the loan period, I think I can keep the book but suspect that a library rep will come round to my house and either lock the book in a box to which only they have the key, or run the pages through a shredder (I’m not sure which).

Looking at the online copy of the book, there are various quotas associated with how I can use it.


A tool bar provides me with various options: the Image view is a crappy resolution view, albeit one that provides and infinite scroll through the book.


The PDF view lets me view a PDF version of the current page, though I can’t copy from it. (I do seem to be able to download it though, using the embedded PDF reader, without affecting any quotas?)


If I select the Copy option, it takes me into the PDF view and does let me highlight and copy text from that page. However, if I try to copy from too many pages, that “privilege” is removed…


As far as user experience goes, pretty rubbish on first use, and many of the benefits of having the electronic version, as compared to a print version, have been defensively (aggressively?!) coded against. This doesn’t achieve anything other than introduce inconvenience. So for example, having run out of my copy quota, I manually typed a copy of the sentence I wasn’t allowed to highlight and cmd/ctrl-C.

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

2 thoughts on “Made-Up eBook Physics”

  1. Indeed, these publishers are missing the point of publishing in the digital realm where convenience is the differentiator. These solutions won’t last very long as the competition will simply run over them. I spent more time on and ResearchGate than any of the ‘traditional’ publishers combined. ACM, IEEE, and Springer Verlag are the most annoying IMHO. If a paper is behind a paywall, I simply won’t use it in research. Not because it is difficult for me to obtain, but because it would be difficult to obtain for any reader of my research.

    Here is a hint to the publishers: I wouldn’t have a problem spending a couple hundred dollars per year for a subscription, if I felt that you were genuinely try to reduce the drag in the publishing and consumption process. AWS single click is the gold standard at this time, if it takes 2 clicks to get something done then it is 100% worse than what I am expecting. Three clicks and you are out.

    1. I tend to go for articles that folk without the privilege of a university library subscription can also access, in part because I see the role of this blog as communicating practical uses of new knowledge stuff to a wider audience than that.
      Of course, having an academic library affiliation still doesn’t mean I can access every scholarly publication, and may not even extend to the reading outputs from other members of my own institution (as per for example!)

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