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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.