ASIS&T 2006 START Conference Manager    

User behavior during the book selection process

Nina Wacholder, Lu Liu and Ying-Hsang Liu

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


We report on an experiment that studies user behavior in the book selection process. This process begins when an individual has an information need that may be satisfied by a book (whether print or electronic) and ends with the user’s decision as to whether the book contains enough information on the topic at hand that it merits more-in-depth reading. Our focus is on the stage of the process where the user engages in a combination of information-seeking, navigation and reading to make the decision about the book’s usefulness. The objectives of this research are to find out how well people do at this ‘real-world’ information access task and to understand what actions people take to make the decision as to whether or not a non-fiction book is useful for a particular topic. How accurate are the users’ decisions? To what extent do users make use of the table-of-contents, the index, and, in digitized books, the search function? What is the relative usefulness of these tools? What impact does the medium (electronic vs. print) have on the book selection process? We conducted a balanced experiment in which we presented participants with a book and a topic and asked them to decide whether the book would be useful for writing a paper on this topic. We measure the outcome of book selection in terms of the accuracy of participants’ decisions about the usefulness of a book for a particular topic, the time the participant took to make the usefulness decision and the pattern of page navigation. For this initial study, we are primarily interested in getting a sense of how the process works and seeing whether we can obtain measurable results on the impact of factors such as usefulness of the topic, medium of presentation of the text, and participants’ perception of the difficulty of the book and the topic. This study furthers our understanding of the barriers that impede accurate book selection and of how to overcome these barriers. At the applied level, this research has implications for the design of systems that help users access text content and for user instruction. At the theoretical level, this research furthers our understanding of a fundamental information access process.

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