Purpose – This article aims to focus on usage data in respect to full-text downloads of journal articles, which is considered an important usage (satisfaction) metric by librarians and publishers. The purpose is to evaluate the evidence regarding full-text viewing by pooling together data on the full-text viewing of tens of thousands of users studied as part of a number of investigations of e-journal databases conducted during the Virtual Scholar research programme. Design/methodology/approach – The paper reviews the web logs of a number of electronic journal libraries including OhioLINK and ScienceDirect using Deep Log Analysis, which is a more sophisticated form of transactional log analysis. The frequency, characteristics and diversity of full-text viewing are examined. The article also features an investigation into the time spent online viewing full-text articles in order to get a clearer understanding of the significance of full-text viewing, especially in regard to reading. Findings – The main findings are that there is a great deal of variety amongst scholars in their full-text viewing habits and that a large proportion of views are very cursory in nature, although there is survey evidence to suggest that reading goes on offline. Originality/value – This is the first time that full-text viewing evidence is studied on such a large scale.