e-books and schools?

For schools that want to embrace e-books, is it best to provide e-books, e-readers or a combination of both?

Currently, we are running a Kindle checkout pilot program.  Students can checkout a Kindle for two weeks and read any of the 40+ titles available or request new titles to be added.  In this way, we are building an e-book collection of titles students want to read.  Titles can be available on up to six Kindles at one time, allowing multiple students to read the same title simultaneously without our purchasing multiple copies.  However, our Kindle pilot program has its limits.  At present we only have four devices, so checkout is limited and we are unable to lend titles to student owned devices.

If students have their own e-readers there are several options a school library could take.

Overdrive – Many public libraries offer this service.  Libraries build their own e-book collection and titles are checked out and downloaded to personal e-readers for two weeks.  There is a wide range of titles and the quality is great.  The downside is titles are limited to one e-reader at a time not to mention the hefty $4,000 a year price tag for a school of our size.

There are free e-book options (Gutenberg.org and manybooks.net) that school libraries can direct students to.  Titles are downloaded to computers and/or mobile e-reader devices.  While these sites offer a wonderful free option, they generally do not have current titles and the formatting isn’t of the same quality as purchased or borrowed e-books.

Schools can also create an e-book collection through Follett. They are continually adding to their collection and the price per e-book is comparable to Amazon, but the titles cannot currently be read on mobile devices (iPads, Kindles, Nooks, iPhones, etc.)

With the various options should schools provide both the e-books and the e-readers? Expecting all students to provide their own e-reader device is not realistic but having the option for students to use their own device would save schools’ money.

We are left hoping the Overdrive system will become more affordable, allowing us to offer e-books for students to checkout on their own devices while continuing with the Kindle program for those students who need both the book and the reader.  For the moment promoting the public library Overdrive option and the free e-book sites remains our solution for those students with their own e-reading devices.

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