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UX student looking for interviewees
#1  UXstudent 02-15-2021, 04:01 AM
Hi!

My name is Stefan and I'm studying UX design. Starting February 22nd I will begin working on my master thesis which is about the e-book management program Calibre. I am looking for people who would be kind enough to answer some questions about your usage of e-books. Knowledge about Calibre is not required, but it would be useful if you do have.
If you have time to spare between the 22nd and 26th I would be delighted to hear from you.
The interview would in that case take place online via video call (Google Meet), but camera is not required if you prefer not to appear on video.

Thanks in advance
Stefan
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#2  Quoth 02-15-2021, 08:58 AM
Consider also offering Viber and Signal for interviews. Only Facebook owned things are worse than Google for privacy.

I take it you are also signed up here:
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/

I designed a lot of UI stuff from 1983 to 2012 and found NN UX articles useful. Current Windows 10, Many Websites (esp. Dark UI techniques on Amazon) and every version of Android, including AWFUL Android TV are examples of stunningly bad design ignoring every lesson learnt from 1960s to 1990s.

I'd have not have chosen Calibre as a subject as it's totally untypical. I've used it since maybe version 2.x on XP. It's not untypical of the problems of presenting a view of a database and having options for many features, often 3rd party. Also to an extent the GUI can be dramatically changed (more than one menu bar, a conventional title bar with a menu.

Also answer in your thesis: Why did MS EVER think it was a good idea to hide the LEAST used items in menus?
1) I turn that off. It's absolutely evil. Started about 2000 or 2001.
2) Frequency of use is totally unrelated to importance!

Also Calibre isn't about usage of ebooks, but managing a library of them for any number of eReading gadgets.

The actual library & sorting on actual eReaders varies from just acceptable (Kobo with Collections and Series as well as Authors and Titles) to broken (Kindle Collections and Series are broken and can't usually be managed by Calibre) to really non-existent (simply a list of all authors or titles, or worse, only a directory & file browser).

I've used and written document management and archive systems for Windows and also DOS and CP/M based book lending library and video lending library programs.

The only ereader that's even close to mid 1980s document/library features is the models with current Kobo firmware. Calibre isn't actually a library system. It manages access to books on your PC/Laptop to transfer them to a device. As such it provides obvious metadata, searches, views and ordering on those and utilities to manage the books such as covers, series, collections, metadata (for the ereader) and ability to change the format or check for structural errors, preview on screen, fix / change the system TOC/NCX or edit the style sheets and content.

It's absolutely not a traditional document management system nor suited as a library in the sense that physical libraries, video libraries or Borrowbox (virtual ebook and audiobook lending library).

It's needed because:
1) In the past an ereader didn't have space for lots of ebooks. Not such an issue now except for PDFs (which are not ebooks) and comics/graphic novels.
2) Apart from Kobo the book management software on ereaders and ereader apps is abysmal, and even Kobo isn't great. Amazon used to let users manage collections on the device or Calibre. Now it's so called Cloud based and all your devices get the same and it's broken. They recently added Series, and it only can use Amazon supplied books in the Amazon order. Broken.
3) An old pre-Amazon Kindle Sony, and certainly the ancient PRS350 and PRS650 are better at managing books than a kindle.

If you use other than Amazon's cloud (and you should) or more than 50 titles or more than one device or need to change formats, then Calibre is a necessity, because the ereaders and ereader apps (more than 1/2 ebook readers use a phone or tablet app) are dreadful.
Apple is a problem due to their walled garden.
Android gadgets using MTP rather than mass storage can be awkward.
Many Apps import ebooks, so Calibre can't delete them from the app, and the App duplicates the content you put on the phone or tablet.
Better to use 3rd party apps on iOS or Android rather than Apple Books, Kindle App or Kobo App etc unless you don't know how to import to Calibre stripping DRM.
Overdrive and Borrowbox Library apps or Adobe tools needed for Library loans. It's not reasonable to manage them via Calibre, only books you buy or are Public Domain.
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#3  UXstudent 02-16-2021, 02:00 PM
Hi Quoth! Nice to hear from you!

Calibre as focus is unfortunately set in stone at this point. My hope with this project is that the results of my work would actually be of use, as such I reached out to a FOSS forum asking which programs they saw needed improvements, of which Calibre was a prime candidate. I doubt for profit companies with proprietary software would care much with whatever I come up with. Signal might not be part of that crowd, but they still have a larger userbase and therefore more likely to already have people working on UX for them.

Quote Quoth
The actual library & sorting on actual eReaders varies from just acceptable (Kobo with Collections and Series as well as Authors and Titles) to broken (Kindle Collections and Series are broken and can't usually be managed by Calibre) to really non-existent (simply a list of all authors or titles, or worse, only a directory & file browser).
This type of response is excellent. This is the kind of insight I need, thank you. But it also demonstrates why I prefer a face-to-face interview. The flow of conversation would make it a lot easier in a spoken format. But I'm thankful for your feedback nonetheless.
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#4  ps67 02-16-2021, 03:26 PM
Quote Quoth

Also Calibre isn't about usage of ebooks, but managing a library of them for any number of eReading gadgets.

The actual library & sorting on actual eReaders varies from just acceptable (Kobo with Collections and Series as well as Authors and Titles) to broken (Kindle Collections and Series are broken and can't usually be managed by Calibre) to really non-existent (simply a list of all authors or titles, or worse, only a directory & file browser).
I own 3 ereader: You see them in my profile.

If You are interested also Pocketbook has a not so bad connection with calibre: calibre handles Authors and Titles of course, but also Series and Genre (by tags) and Synopsis. It doesn't handles Collections, somebody should write a calibre plug in for that (there is a Windows program in this forum that can do it, so it is possible) but it is open source and if there is nobody who is able and interested to do it...

And about Kobo: calibre handles also (other than Collections, Series, Authors and Titles): Synopsis, Subtitle, Publisher, ISBN, Publication Date and Language. The great advantage of Kobo with calibre is that it is possible to handle the data base directly in the ereader, so You can change the metadata of the books without downloading the books in the Kobo again. And You can make a back up of the data base of Your Kobo with calibre (useful in case of corruption of it).

Edit: With calibre in Kobo You can also change Evaluation, Reading Status and Reset Reading Position (I didn't mention them previously because I don't use these features).

With Poketbook if You want to change the metadata of a book You must delete it from the ereader and download it again after changing the metadata. May be that also with Poketbook it could be possible to handle the data base just like with Kobo but the second has a wider base of owners so it is more easy to find somebody who can write some calibre plug in for it.

About Kindle: nothing to say. I confirm every word of @Quoth.
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#5  Quoth 02-17-2021, 08:16 AM
Quote UXstudent
Hi Quoth! Nice to hear from you!

Calibre as focus is unfortunately set in stone at this point. My hope with this project is that the results of my work would actually be of use, as such I reached out to a FOSS forum asking which programs they saw needed improvements, of which Calibre was a prime candidate.
Even on a basic phone/tablet it's possible to install Zoom, Viber, Signal, Skype etc, and once on a phone, you can install on a laptop (MacOs, Windows, Linux). Zoom only needs one user to have an account, they can share a link.
Viber and Signal work far better than Skype now and are easy to install on phone and then authorise on a tablet or laptop (or both).

What I'm saying about Calibre is that it's essentially an interface to a database more limited than a lending library. A database like this with loads of options to do stuff to the ebooks and database is by it's nature going to have a less friendly UX and GUI than say a Wordprocessor or even a CAD system. The actual ebooks are not in the database, but imported and exported from an ideally private and local filesystem. I looked at putting electronic documents actually INSIDE an SQL database (it's possible) over 20 years ago. It's a very bad idea. Most well designed document management systems use imported private files instead. Then the database has the file locations and all the metadata for each file.
But Calibre isn't a true document management system nor a lending library system. It's a store of the ebook files, set of utilities and metadata for the ebooks, all orientated to managing the ebooks on a physical ereader.

The ereaders with the current Kobo firmware work best because once the book is imported to the ereader's database, Calibre can access the ereader's native SQLight database to update all the metadata, hence some operations need a second reconnection to a Kobo after the book is sent to the Kobo. The Android or other devices with ONLY MTP mode were the Android app imports the ebook from where Calibre copied it to are the worst. The Kindle formats have about 90% of the English speaking market, and a majority of the users use the Kindle App on iOS or Android. There is no Calibre access to the Kindle eink reader database. The Amazon Fire is really a partially crippled Android tablet with a Kindle app. It's not a real Kindle ereader.

So I'd say you are genius if you come up with anything practical to improve the Calibre UX.
Also you need for testing:
Old DX / KK2 era Kindle
Kindle PW3 or later
Kobo
Android and iOS phones & Tablets with Apple Books, Google Playbooks, Kindle App, Kobo App, and Apps such as Aldiko, Lithium, Moonreader and sideloaded/USB installed koreader (not on Playstore). Also some Android need to be mass storage, MTP and some with integrated SD card adding to storage and some with Portable Storage SD card.
Maybe a Pocketbook and Boyue Lifebook too.

All these are very different Calibre UX. Because ultimately, while you can NOW use Calibre without a gadget, use the supplied ebook viewer, the whole point of it is to send ebooks to a reader (dedicated gadget or app).
Some Android Apps work better than others for Calibre. Best are ones that DON'T import the books, or only have that as an option, and that Calibre and the App can access the exact same directory.
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#6  maddz 02-17-2021, 12:39 PM
In terms of using Calibre, my primary use is to consolidate my ebook purchases, converting them and deDRMing them, and side-loading to my Kobo.

As I use multiple storefronts, it's a necessity to avoid duplicate purchases.

Quote
Amazon.co.uk
Smashwords
Kobo
Tor.com
Standardebooks.org
Project Gutenberg
HumbleBundle
StoryBundle
Bundle of Holding
Baen
Hive.co.uk
University of Chicago
FadedPage
Apart from Baen, I've obtained books from all this past year... About the only thing I don't load in Calibre are my RPG PDF files (mostly on the grounds of size).

For all my books (physical and digital), I have an account at LibraryThing.
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#7  UXstudent 02-17-2021, 03:19 PM
Quote Quoth
Even on a basic phone/tablet it's possible to install Zoom, Viber, Signal, Skype etc, and once on a phone, you can install on a laptop (MacOs, Windows, Linux). Zoom only needs one user to have an account, they can share a link.
Viber and Signal work far better than Skype now and are easy to install on phone and then authorise on a tablet or laptop (or both).
Doh! I totally misunderstood, I thought you suggested that I should rather try improving the UX of Signal or Viber. But yes, I am flexible on what platform to do the interview. I will edit my post if I figure out how.

If I understand you correctly, there's a lot of technical reasons why Calibre is the way it is. Ideally a UX designer would work side by side the technical team to ensure the design spec is within the parameters of what's possible. Unfortunately I don't have that luxury, so whatever I come up with will be purely suggestive based on users needs and behaviors.
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#8  UXstudent 02-17-2021, 03:25 PM
Hi maddz!

Happy to hear from you.

May I ask how Calibre helps you prevent purchasing duplicates? What is your process?
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#9  JSWolf 02-17-2021, 03:51 PM
Quote UXstudent
Hi maddz!

Happy to hear from you.

May I ask how Calibre helps you prevent purchasing duplicates? What is your process?
You can search your Calibre libraries and see if the eBook is there before making the purchase.
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#10  maddz 02-17-2021, 05:08 PM
Quote JSWolf
You can search your Calibre libraries and see if the eBook is there before making the purchase.
Exactly! It saves me from trying to remember which storefront I've purchased from if I've got it in Calibre.

And if I'm not at home, I have my Kobo to use as a check (provided I've gone away with it). LibraryThing I use for my increasingly rare print purchases, especially when I'm in a used book store, and to manage disposing print books when I've replaced it with a digital copy.
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