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Monday, 19 August 2013

The Bookette's Guide to... Where we are with children and eBooks and School Libraries

The lovely Katherine Roberts wrote an interesting piece from an author’s perspective about why children may not be reading e-books over on her blog. It got me thinking that I should write a blog post from a school librarian’s point of view as this is a big question for me in school, right now!

In the past year parents have begun to approach me about whether I think it is “ok” for them to buy their children a Kindle. I encouraged this greatly. Use of a dictionary feature is great for developing readers and they can adapt font size to their needs, so why not? Parents sometimes feel they need approval so they know they are doing the right thing. They’ve heard too much criticism in the media about it being the end of the book. Blah blah! I give my wholehearted parents considering purchasing ereaders for their children. But I also encourage close monitoring of the child’s reading choices to check the titles are age appropriate and that they understand what they read. (Exactly what I do in the library when they choose a book.)


But why are sales not taking off? Why does my school library not supply ebooks to pupils?

This is the difficult bit. As school librarians, we are very keen to supply pupils with ebooks for loan. There are a range of platforms which schools can buy into which cost from £95 right up to £2000. Remember some schools will not be allocating that much money to the library budget for new stock in these tough economic times. This platform fee is just the beginning. Then we have to pay per ebook and depending on the platform chosen to host the service, an added download fee for DRM per book. So it is an expensive undertaking for schools. Especially a school like mine where pupils start at 3 and leave at 13.


Once the platform is in place, we then have to advertise the new service to pupils and get them borrowing. (Most school librarians will love this task).


The final hurdle pupils have to overcome is the type of ereader they own. If they own a Kindle, they won’t be able to borrow from the platform because Amazon don’t allow it. So they need either a Nook, a Kobo, a Sony eReader or an iPad/ tablet.


This year I’ve requested money for a platform to loan ebooks and want to run a pilot scheme to see if it’s a popular choice at my school. Maybe a year from now, I’ll be able to add more dialogue to this discussion.


Remember there are generally two big influencers in children’s book buying. Number one: the parents. They often buy books as gifts or control the family spending. They often need to grant approval of book choices. Number two: peer recommendation. If their friends read it and love it, they will. So if you’re an unknown author, it will undoubtedly take a while to get sales off the ground. You need the word of mouth effect and it may take time. But if your book is good, it will happen!



Anyone else want to add to the children and ebooks discussion? Leave a comment.

9 comments:

Sue Purkiss said...

It's tricky, isn't it - I imagine the obvious e-reader for parents to buy is a Kindle - but as you say, they don't allow borrowing. So you might find you'd spent all that money and then the service didn't get used much. But the situation's changing all the time - perhaps there will be different possibilities by the time you get the money!

Ann Turnbull said...

Thank you for explaining this - it's useful to know. I hope things will gradually change. I feel that the more choices children have in how they read, the better.

A. B. Syed said...

This is a very insightful read. I have been wondering at the differences in volume: My ebook giveaways are great, lots of volume, but sales are a different story.

But I am slightly confused as only yesterday, someone borrowed a copy of my book from the Kindle store. It was only one mind you. I hope that things improve very soon.

Alan Hodgin said...

I head-up RM Books - a free ebook management system for schools that you can use across the school, from library to classroom to reading at home. Teachers can rent ebooks just for when they're needed and it's a free platform, so useful for when budgets are tight. Students can read on any device or computer (or XBox!) with a browser. Schools across the UK are finding its use increases the time students spend reading, improves attitudes towards reading and engages reluctant readers. For example: www.rm.com/shireland. I thought I'd check you knew we existed :) You can give it a go yourself by claiming a free account for your school here www.rm.com/rmbooks. One of my team will happily visit you if you need a hand getting going, as you like. Sales pitch over!

Alan Hodgin said...

I head-up RM Books - a free ebook management system for schools that you can use across the school, from library to classroom to reading at home. Teachers can rent ebooks just for when they're needed and it's a free platform, so useful for when budgets are tight. Students can read on any device or computer (or XBox!) with a browser. Schools across the UK are finding its use increases the time students spend reading, improves attitudes towards reading and engages reluctant readers. For example: www.rm.com/shireland. I thought I'd check you knew we existed :) You can give it a go yourself by claiming a free account for your school here www.rm.com/rmbooks. One of my team will happily visit you if you need a hand getting going, as you like. Sales pitch over!

sarah111well said...

I signed up our school to one of the available platforms in March this year. Many of our students (11-16yr olds) already use Kindles at home, but an equal number of them use iPads at home. Are they borrowing e-books to read on them? No. One department is promoting e-book text-books and revision guides to their GCSE students and this is going well. But these students are not borrowing e-books for pleasure.
I'm wondering if I need to run How-to-get-started demonstrations in the library.
In sharp contrast to this was the overwhelming interest in e-books expressed by parents during our Open Evening for prospective students.

Nicola Morgan said...

This is so interesting, Bookette - thank you. Really important for us all to know how it works from each side of the story.

Alan, I'm interested in your point. I now have control over three (well, one and two coming soon!) of the ebooks of my previous novels. How would your system work for me, can you tell me? Where do you source the books from and how does the publisher/author receive income? Thanks!

rose.ann.castro said...

Thanks for showing up such fabulous information. I agree with everything you mentioned. I also recommend kindle to my nephews and nieces.

Ann@Blogging-Profits-Unleashed

laura smith said...

Hi, I appreciate your advice maurice. Your exactly right, I've been stressing about others progress to much and it kinda reflects on what your sayin about the writing part. I've got to stop preparing and just dive in already. Have you had any experience in writing/selling books on amazon/kindle? much obliged!Have a good day....>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>