ebrary – iPad App of the Week

ebrary – iPad App of the Week

Update: The app has now been discontinued.

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is ebrary.

Researchers now have an optimized way to experience authoritative content – both online and offline – from multiple sources including e-books that their institutions acquire from leading publishers and materials uploaded and integrated by librarians.

Free

I have a bit of a passion for e-books. It’s not about replacing paper books, much more a way to provider greater access to books at a time and place to suit the learner.

The e-Books for FE from JISC Collections enables FE Colleges to start with e-Books through the ebrary platform.If you can it makes sense to provide authenticated external access, either through Federated Access or Athens.

One of the disadvantages of the ebrary platform was it was browser based, though that meant you could easily access the collection through a PC or a Mac, it did mean that it was either not possible or challenging to read them on a mobile device.

Recently ebrary have added a download feature to the collection, this means you can download either 40 pages as an unprotected PDF or the whole book for a 14 day loan using Adobe Digital Editions. This means you could transfer it to some e-book readers such as the Sony Reader.

ebrary have just released an iPad and iPhone App. What surprised me was how much better the app was for reading books than the browser based platform on the iPad.

Disappointingly the only way I could get the app to work was to link my account on ebrary that I use with Federated Access with my Facebook account and then link the App with my Facebook account. There didn’t appear to be a way of logging into the App using Federated Access (and I also believe it isn’t possible with Athens either). I guess there is a technical reason for this, but this could cause problems if your institution blocks Facebook for staff or learners (or both).

The app doesn’t “hold” the authentication for very long either, so as a result you do need to re-authenticate on a regular basis. So it’s not like you can authenticate at home and then use it in college, you would need to authenticate across the college network. Though if staff or learners have a 3G iPad then they could just use 3G to authenticate and then go back to wifi to access the book!

In my own college that wouldn’t be an issue, learners would have access to Facebook over the student wireless network and though we do block Facebook to staff, staff who have an “academic need” to use Facebook can get the block lifted. Using Facebook to access ebrary would be a legitimate “academic need”.

Once authenticated you can search and browse for books as you can on the browser platform.

The books download page by page which on a slow connection can be frustratingly slow. It makes much more sense to download the books, but to do that you need an Adobe ID for the Adobe Digital Editions. This is in addition to the other IDs. I can imagine that this could be complicated for learners in having to combine various IDs to use the app. Also if they have been using Ebrary purely through IP authentication on campus they may not even know they need an ID to access the books.

The books are quite large too, the ones I looked at were in the 70-100MB range which on a slow broadband connection will take a while to download. Once downloaded though, moving between chapters, or flicking between pages the experience is so much faster and better than trying to read the books “live” having to download each page. Also it doesn’t require you to re-authenticate so making it much easier to read books on the move. However once you have downloaded a book and it expires you don’t seem to be able to download it again!

I am looking into this limitation. You can return a book early, so I am guessing that is one limited solution. I have managed to re-download an expired book, but I suspect that there may be a watiing time before you can “borrow” it again. The ebrary help does cover some of this, but as the ebrary platform can be used for a variety of books and collections, the help isn’t always specific to the e-Books for FE or the iOS App.

You can copy and paste text from the e-books and what I do like (as it does in the browser) is it adds the appropriate reference to the pasted text. This makes it much easier for learners to understand and recognise the importance of referencing the text they cut and paste.

I will admit that the ebrary app is not perfect, but it does work and it does allow you to access the ebrary collection from your iOS device, there is an app for the iPhone as well as the iPad.

If you are subscribed to the ebrary collection, have a Facebook account and have an iPad, then get this app.

Get the ebrary app in the iTunes App Store. Update: The app has now been discontinued.

4 thoughts on “ebrary – iPad App of the Week”

  1. Hi James:

    Thank you for this review!

    We at ebrary are looking into alternatives to Facebook sign in.

    For other issues, we encourage you to contact support@ebrary.com if you haven’t already done so.

    Your feedback is appreciated!

  2. I also don’t like the required use of Facebook as a login. My institution said that was the only was it could be done because of some other authentication issues. I’m skeptical of what will be done with the information. I really like eBrary and the mobile app is very cool; I hope another login method will be developed.

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