Friday, October 14, 2011

eBOOKS and eREADERS - Shut up about it already!!!

          Dude, I don't even know where to BEGIN. I am not afraid of new technology, but I AM afraid of people who want to jump on the latest digital trend before the kinks are worked out.
          A few months ago one of our parent-run funding committees started asking about getting eBooks and eReaders into our school library.

NO YEARLY BOOK BUDGET

          We have NO YEARLY BOOK BUDGET, and exist purely through special funding like parent organizations, donations, and book fair profits. We are still FAR below the district average for actual print material. We have less books than any other library in this school district. It seems like we need to at least fix THAT, before we start on something that seems like an "extra" to me.
          Plus, eReader technology is changing as we speak, and so are the DRM (digital rights management) that govern eBook usage. Nobody can agree which device or format is going to triumph. Will it be Amazon with their Kindles that read kindle-formatted eBooks? Or will it be Barnes & Noble with their Nooks, which read ePub format? Will it be iPads, which read ePub or pdf formats? Technically, iPads could read Kindle, too, since you can download Kindle for PC for free. It's all confusing and in flux.
          Oh- and you can get either Kindle or Nook for PC, as free downloads.

New and rapidly-changing technology

          So, with all this new and rapidly-changing technology, THIS is a good time to spend a ton of money on one of the options, right? Before we can tell which one is best? Especially for a school with no real funding? It reminds me of the early days of videotape technology, when my family chose "Beta" over "VHS," and bought the machine and a bunch of tapes before VHS obliterated Beta.
          I was asked by this particular funding group to do some "research" into the whole eBook/eReader thing, which I gladly agreed to do. But once I returned with many articles and reasons to support NOT jumping on that trend right now, they didn't want to hear it. Even when I bring up the fact that unless they're willing to purchase an eReader for EVERY student at our school, then it's not an equitable practice, they STILL are not discouraged from it. We're a PUBLIC school library, don't we have to provide equal access to whatever we provide for our students?

Don't we have to provide equal access?

          They're talking about buying maybe 10 Nooks for the library, or something like that. In a school with 1,200 students, how exactly do you decide which 10 students get to play with the Nooks? And what about actual eBOOKS? Those cost money, too. On average they cost as much as print books do, and the Librarian and I both would rather have actual print books that every student could read, whether they are one of the select few to get their hands on an eReader or not.

Wouldn't take long at all for them to be
damaged, stolen, or lost

          Can you imagine the waiting list nightmare that would be created by having just a handful of brand new eReaders? And if you work in a library, you know it wouldn't take long at all for one or two of them to be damaged, stolen, or lost.

"Overdrive," costs $4,000 yearly

          A big reason I object to this whole idea is that technically, an eReader is "equipment," which we library techs are not supposed to have to manage.  The eBook files are the "books," so I could see us eventually having an online database of eBooks for download in multiple formats (for whatever the student happens to have access to), but the current standard for this is "Overdrive," which costs $4,000 yearly. We just don't have that. We're lucky if we manage to scrounge up $2,000 for new books in any one year.          

UPDATE SINCE I BEGAN THIS POST:     
          Just last week we had a meeting of all Library technicians. I had asked that "eBooks & eReaders in our public school libraries" be put on the agenda. At first our coordinator seemed confused by this wording, specifically that I made a point to indicate PUBLIC school libraries. We all know we're a public institution, of course, but I think this is a good time to remind everyone what that means, as far as accessibility.
          eBooks would not be accessible to more than an extremely SMALL portion of our student body, even if we purchased a handful of eReaders. But we didn't even have to go into the "equitable practice" angle of the issue.
          Our coordinator quickly assessed the situation after I explained it, and said that any purchase of technology at this point would be premature, because there has not been a district standard set, yet. There is a committee that reviews new tech stuff, no matter what the funding source is, and eReaders would have to be proposed to them, and go through a review process.
          As soon as we explained this to our admin, the ongoing (and seemingly neverending) discussion seemed to come to a grinding halt. Which is exactly what I was hoping. For now, at least.

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