The challenge

The challenge for MACON was to address the difficulties involved in delivering quality academic content to mobile devices in a seamless and user-friendly manner through a resource discovery interface. The purpose of the project was to explore the possibilities and share the findings with the M-Libraries community. The content available to our users includes a wide selection of third party material & local collections such as the Open Research Repository (ORO) and OU audio-visual materials.

Much of the quality academic content libraries make available to their students comes from electronic journals. The articles in these journals are most commonly provided as PDF documents, which are not ideal for reading on small screens. Often the PDFs do not allow their text to reflow which means that reading them on a mobile device can be akin to using a screen magnifier – you have a small window onto the text and you have to keep moving the text around under that window. As you can’t see the full layout of the document this can be very disorienting. When you reach the end of a paragraph it’s not always clear whether you should move down or sideways. There are tools available to force existing content to reflow for mobile screens, but many licence agreements  with content providers (and some copyright statements) specifically prohibit the reformatting of the materials they supply, so libraries can’t use these tools on third party content. Materials in other formats can present similar difficulties as not all devices support all common media formats. For instance Apple don’t support Flash, which has been a popular format for learning objects and videos.

About Keren Mills

Macon project manager (@mirya on Twitter)
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