Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's a Book

Lane Smith's humorous picture book titled, It's a Book, captures the tension of traditional print trying to exist in a digital world.


For me, the book is a reminder that the future of book publishers and libraries must be one that adapts to a society using less paper and shifting toward digital content. Lately the hot topic in libraries involves the explosion of eBooks. According to an article in the School Library Journal, eBook sales have increased 1,000 percent in the past three years. This fall, the librarians at my school discussed purchasing eBooks and audiobooks for the library from OverDrive, a large global distributor of eBooks and audiobooks. We know that this is the future; however, the cost of purchasing the eBooks is still high or I should say licensing the books. You don't really own them. It's more like subscribing to a magazine, except it costs thousands of dollars. The University of Kansas is in litigation with OverDrive because it wants a new service provider, Cloud Library, and OverDrive is saying, nuh-uh, no way are you moving the eBooks to another provider. Over 5 years, the University has invested half a million dollars in eBooks and audiobooks. You can see why the courts are involved. What a mess.

Then there is the issue of what eReader to purchase for the library and what platform to use. Or do you even need an eReader? Maybe in iPad is better? I'm wondering also whether or not to get a color eReader versus a black and white reader because I am an elementary library serving children from ages 4-12. Will parents prefer an eReader in color and would they read picture books in color to their young children with it? Do I check out the device to parents or kids? What if it gets lost? Elementary students aren't very responsible and the device is expensive. And to muddle my thinking even more, Google has just created a cross-platform eReader App that might force some changes in the industry.  Plus there is the issue of troubleshooting for library patrons, digital rights management, etc.

I decided to send a message on Twitter to see if anyone uses eBooks in an elementary library and what eReaders they use. So far no comments. I'll keep digging...


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