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New ScienceDirect® Book Homepages Offer Clearer Book Identity, Faster Downloads and Greater Ease of Use

By: , Posted on: October 22, 2018

The previous ScienceDirect® article described Elsevier’s revamped journal homepages, and how they are making life easier for the researchers, readers and authors who use them. But journals are not the only valuable resource available via ScienceDirect; using both journals and books together in the same research session can be extremely beneficial. In fact, four million books and journals [1]were used jointly in ScienceDirect research flows in 2017.

Although Elsevier traces its roots as a book publisher back to the late 1500s, it first added its books to ScienceDirect in 2007. Today, Elsevier has nearly 37,000 book titles – including series, handbooks, Major Reference Works (MRWs) and Reference Modules – available on ScienceDirect.

Elsevier began migrating ScienceDirect pages to a new technology platform in 2016, with an updated design, and steadily instituted the upgrade until it was time to bring books in line with the rest of the platform. Just like its journals, Elsevier wanted its books, MRWs and Reference Modules to be more easily found, downloaded and used. Looking at trends in how research is undertaken, as well as input from individual researchers, Elsevier has significantly revamped its book homepages. Users can now take advantage of a more distinctive design for each book, rapid downloads, richer information and improved ease of use. But before we delve into the details of the new book     homepages, let’s take a look at the motivations and advantages of using books for research.

Why Do Researchers Visit ScienceDirect Book Homepages?

78 percent of ScienceDirect users say they often perform interdisciplinary research[2].  Book content builds expertise and confidence in unfamiliar topics, providing critical contextual knowledge that is interlinked with journal articles.

Research and user feedback[3] demonstrate that users have a variety of reasons for visiting ScienceDirect book homepages:

  • To obtain a visual scan of the whole book – cover, information, contents
  • To check the author(s) or editor(s) to determine if it’s a high-quality book
  • To check the book’s contents to learn if it’s relevant to the researcher
  • To check the publication date to confirm that it’s still a relevant work (although some classic books are timeless)
  • To scan chapter titles for relevance
  • To understand the contents of each chapter to determine overall research relevance
  • To search within the book to determine if the subject of interest has good coverage

After reviewing these use cases, Elsevier developed an improved ScienceDirect experience for all of these reasons that users access book homepages.

Book Homepages Are Simpler, Cleaner and More Responsive

ScienceDirect users can now discover and use Elsevier books more easily and efficiently than ever before. The modern book homepage design is simpler and cleaner than the previous version, meaning users can find the content they need faster. Increased functionality and richer book information are now available at the user’s fingertips. Researchers have a more effective browsing experience, too, as the new layout streamlines search efforts. To improve discovery, the new homepage design establishes distinctive book brands – each book has a custom background color to communicate a unique identity – without sacrificing the common design principles that enable clarity and more effective navigation.

Since research is done from many locations on multiple devices, Elsevier ensured that the new pages would be fully responsive. The pages adapt to whatever size screen a researcher is using, from desktops to laptops, tablets to mobile phones. And who doesn’t like to save time when researching? The new arrangement of information has resulted in shorter loading times for book homepages, meaning researchers can get to the content they need more quickly. The new pages load in one second on average, compared to the old pages which took up to 15 seconds!

ScienceDirect Users Will Notice Some New Features

Researchers who have a history of looking for information in books on ScienceDirect will notice some new elements when they access the book pages. In addition to the book description on the homepage, there is now supplementary information about the book. Researchers can use this information, such as Author Affiliation, to help determine if a book is relevant to their work. The export menu has been simplified and completely redesigned, too.

There is a new feature for guest users as well. Elsevier has added a “Purchase Book” link on each book homepage, which directs guests to for the opportunity to purchase a copy of the book in either electronic or print format.

Series, Handbooks, Major Reference Works and Reference Modules Are Redesigned Too

An upgraded interface to Elsevier’s online book content would not be complete without addressing its series, handbooks, MRWs and Reference Modules. Because of their serial nature, book series and handbooks were redesigned following the same model as the new journal homepages. Major Reference Works were migrated to the same design as the other Elsevier books, becoming available in mid-2018. Reference Modules were revamped as well, to better relay the curated value of the collection. Users will now find introductory articles on the homepage, and a separate concept page for each sub-domain.

Researchers Like What They See

Elsevier always consults its users as part of any upgrade process, and the redesign of the book homepages was no exception. Feedback from users under test conditions prior to roll-out was quite positive, and particularly highlighted the modern, clear page design:

“Really nice…this would make me want to read books”

“This is a lot more user friendly”

“This is like looking at the back of a book”

“Has a feel that this is not an ancient database”

“I like this. It draws the attention, and is nicer and easier to read”

In addition, researcher interviews revealed no significant usability issues with the book pages. Today, 100 percent of Elsevier’s book homepages have been released in the new format.  Yet no makeover of this extent is ever fully complete. Elsevier’s ScienceDirect team will continue to monitor researcher usage and trends, and improve the platform accordingly.

ScienceDirect: Supporting the Future of Research and Education

This article, and the three previous ones, provided an overview of ScienceDirect’s rich history, its underlying technology, and the ways in which it makes Elsevier’s journals and books more accessible and valuable to researchers. Although Elsevier has enhanced and expanded ScienceDirect many times throughout the years (and will continue to do so), the platform will always reach for the same goal: improving the way that researchers, teachers, students, healthcare and information professionals search, discover, read, understand and share scholarly research.



[1] Source: 2017 ScienceDirect usage data analysis

[2] Source: TechValidate survey of 270 users of Elsevier ScienceDirect Books TVID: 9D4-230-2AD

[3] Source: 2017 user research

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