A colleague of mine wants to sit down with me to talk about ebooks in my library because her school is planning to roll out something similar. It got me thinking. What do I have to say about it?
At the beginning of this year, I added 12 Barnes and Noble Nooks to my school library. As of this writing, two of them are broken. I have emailed Barnes and Noble twice, and haven’t received a reply. I purchased all of the Harry Potter books for two of them, and they still aren’t on the devices. Something on Barnes and Noble’s side was wrong, and they said that they are working on it. That was months ago.
I also asked if I can switch from being Barnes and Noble managed to just locally managed, so that I can switch out devices easier if they break, and I haven’t received a reply to that, either.
Last year, I bought 12 Kindle Fires. They were beautiful, but I had to return them. The logistics wouldn’t work. The Kindle Fires don’t work with Proxy Servers, and that is necessary with my school district’s web filters. It is also next to impossible to purchase things on Amazon with a PO, and my district hasn’t moved to the credit card system yet, so we cannot purchase things from Amazon.
As an Educational Technology person, I like dedicated e-readers for reading. I think that there are cognitive load issues associated with having all of these different choices when you have a device in your hands. How can kids concentrate on what they are reading when the email ping goes off or a text message comes in or an alert pops up that a friend just messaged them or… you get it, right? E-readers definitely have a place for those who want an uncluttered reading space.
The only economical library-friendly ebook retailer (that I have seen) is FollettShelf. The problem with them is that they are not compatible with dedicated e-readers. Their books are browser-based. I can’t use Kindle Fires and I can’t afford iPads, and I think that dedicated e-readers are better for reading.
Do you see a problem emerging?
Now, the Nooks that aren’t broken get checked out all of the time. I have them grouped into genres: Realistic Fiction for Guys, Realistic Fiction for Girls, Fantasy, Sci Fi/Dystopian, Mystery/Horror, and Paranormal Romance. There are 20ish titles on each device. That is an awful waste of great books. There is no way that kids can read more than one or two books in the time I give them to keep the device. So, all of those great books are checked out and no one else has access to them.
There is pretty much one game in town for library management of ebooks and audiobooks- Overdrive. Their pricing structure is way out of my league as a school librarian with 1000 patrons.
Where does that leave me? I thought about a DRM-stripping program… DRM is ethically wrong and goes against fair use law anyhow… I thought- what if I stripped the DRM from the books, and then downloaded them to the kids’ devices and then at the end of the checkout period, I could take them off of the devices… wow. I think that for all of that manual maneuvering of data, I would need at least three more parapros in my LMC. And it is in legal gray-area, which my district wouldn’t be happy with (to put it simply).
I have a real dilemma on my hands. Bigger than ebooks, I think.
I want to stay current. I want my library to stay relevant. I want kids to have access to all of these awesome books and to be able to read them their way. Hell, I don’t ever read paper books anymore. I am strictly an ebook reader. How can I, as a middle school librarian, expect that these kids aren’t going to want to read this way when I see the benefit of it? It speaks to the entire field of educational technology, I think. How do we get all of these awesome advances into the hands of kids? I can give you a thousand examples of things that would benefit my kids more than you know, but I can’t utilize them because I have no way of delivering them.
I emailed the public library to see if they would like to do a membership drive at my library so that kids can get library cards and check ebooks out from them. I haven’t heard back. Does no one read my emails? Even then, about 20% of my students live in an unincorporated area where they do not belong to the library. So they wouldn’t be eligible to get cards.
The only upside that I can offer my colleague is that the Nooks do get checked out- they are never not checked out. But that means that 10 of my patrons are benefiting from the thousands of dollars I have spent at a time. Ten!
I am at a loss.