Research on e-book usage in academic libraries: ‘tame’ solution or a ‘wicked problem’?

Shelley Wilkin, Peter Graham Underwood


The result of a systematic analysis of the literature on research about the usage of e-books in academic libraries published in the United States and the United Kingdom between 2004 and 2014 is examined. Commonalities were identified amongst the articles, together with factors such as questions asked, user response and the research methods that were used. Several areas of deficiency were identified in the conduct of the research and, in order to contextualise the issues, Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber’s (1973) characteristics of a ‘wicked problem’ and a ‘tame problem’ were used as a framework. It was concluded that e-book usage does exhibit several of the characteristics of a wicked problem, and uncertainty about the exact nature of the problem will remain until further research


e-books, soft systems methodology, research studies, wicked problem, tame problem, e-book usage

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