Which way do we go? The “e-book” dilemma

betaIt’s Beta vs. VHS vs. Laserdisc all over again.  8-Track tape versus cassette.  We’ve all been there, standing on the precipice debating formats.

The precipice which is foremost right now in my mind is what to do about e-books.  We are faced with Kindles, Nooks, Sony Ebook readers, iTouches, Follett e-books online, Netlibrary, Gale Virtual Reference Shelf, and all the various librarian-y reference book publishers e-book products.

   In a high school, it’s pretty hard to get student attention long enough to direct users to all these different e-book sources.   And you want to wait and see what settles out as the “standard” to avoid costly mistakes, but you want to take the leap into offering e-books as well.

signsflickrkevinzim So right now I have my foot in several different ponds.  But the question is, which way do we go?  Hedge our bets? (which is what I’m doing now) Commit?  It’s beta versus VHS multiplied.

This is really about change in general.  Formats are changing so rapidly that in the last 2 years it’s been a sea-change in the way our library is used.  Nonfiction sits on the shelf (for the most part) dormant, while fiction flies off of it.  A good librarian has to watch those patterns and try to anticipate the next ‘chess’ move in terms of technology and student use.

Because fundamentally, the guiding rule here has to be our customers and what they will use.  For students, the easier the better, and the more familiar the format the better.  If e-books were on Facebook, I’d have no decision to make. 

My sense is that Kindles and iTouch type devices will win out, dimly followed by e-books that we can completely integrate into our own online catalog. 

Because for students,  I believe the biggest issue will be mobility.  Information has to be mobile for it to serve them well.   Books, after all, are mobile.  So whatever format “replaces” them needs to be portable, easily used, quickly accessed, and ubiquitious.

So, in the meantime, which way do we go?  Beta or VHS?  8 track versus cassette?  iTouches for everyone?   The future is waiting for our students–we just have to figure out how we will deliver it!

9 thoughts on “Which way do we go? The “e-book” dilemma

  1. Carolyn, great post! I’m thinking the eventual winner will be either the rumored Apple tablet or possibly Google—not because they will have a device, but because I keep reading articles saying they are going to have their own ebook store and that the ebooks will be compatible with any reader or mobile device.

    I think devices like Nook and Kindle won’t wind up being the “go to” device for libraries simply because they are limited in function and for Kindle in particular, so proprietary. However, I think anything can happen in this market, which makes our decision making process even more challenging! 🙂

    Buffy Hamilton

  2. “In a high school, it’s pretty hard to get student attention long enough to direct users to all these different e-book sources.”

    Finally someone has addressed my problem! I have purchased e-books which no one (faculty or students) care about using.

    Our school is a “just Google it,” so any money I spend on print or e-book resources is a waste. We can get students to check out the “new” fiction display, but not much more for print.

    I have nearly zero interaction on lesson planning with teachers, despite my efforts. The previous librarian subscribed to Gale’s “Student Resource Center” for $2500 a year (30% of budget). When I discontinued it, no on once asked where it went. I used the savings to buy some e-books which I thought could connect better with faculty. They haven’t been used at all. So I buy used reference books from Amazon (better than 1960’s reference books that were here) and watch students Google and wikipedia everything.

    We also have many students w/o computer access at home, so embedding books on a site and database and e-book resources are never used.

    I’m wondering how and what I could make portable for students. (Flashdrives don’t even come back after checkout as students can’t even afford their own).

    Thanks for the therapy. It’s good for me. LOL

  3. Bob,

    I hear your frustration. I think the easiest course in a circumstance like that is to really try to build a relationship with one or two interested teachers–focus your outreach on them, and engage them in talking about/trying things with you. Sometimes making that inroad relieves frustration, reaches SOME students, and also provides a model for the other teachers over time! But it is frustrating!

    It sounds like something like the Kindle that can be checked out might be a possibility to try? (Maybe you could do what we do–we get a signed permission slip for students checking out our graphic calculators so that parents aren’t surprised if the student loses it and they have to pay for it!)

    Or just settle on “one” tool and observe the use.

    I might ask my principal in your circumstance for a forum–during an inservice day–so you could share some of these resources with your English department or interested teachers. Again, build those allies.

    But it sounds like yo’uve tried, and I know it’s really frustrating when despite efforts, those inroads are hard to make!

  4. Do you have to jump in now? I’d hold off for a while. When the Beta/VHS debate happened they were really too expensive and limited. It wasn’t until Blockbuster came along when everyone jumped on the VHS bandwagon. I know at some point you gotta fish or cut your line, but I’m not sure now is the time unless you have a significant percent of your population clamoring for these tools. If that’s the case then they’ll tell you what they’d prefer. Right now I’m betting iTouch/iPhone stuff because I’m thinking all cameras/Flip video/ereaders and maybe even netbooks are going to get shrunk into our phones over the next decade. Just a guess, but people really seem to like their phones more than any of the other devices. The ereaders are just too new, different and buggy. It’d be like buying one of those laserdisc players in the couple of years before DVDs came out. Those huge record-album sized things? Yeah. Hold off as long as you can until there IS a standard…

  5. Carolyn,
    What to do? What to do? It’s bad enough when you have trouble making decisions, but when it concerns ever changing technology, you tend to be even more cautious. Which is a good thing.

    I side with Jim on this – wait until the dust settles. I was one of the few who bought a beta player/recorder eons ago. I bought it used and still had to pay $300.00. Then within a couple of years, it was obsolete.

    I have purchased some reference titles in ebook format for my high school library and have a couple of English teachers who take advantage of them. Once I demonstrate them for the students, most will use them.

    Just as the vendors/manufacturers must market their wares, so must we librarians. We have to choose wisely, though, because teens are finicky creatures. I love working with them, but it isn’t always possible to predict what they will like.

    So for now, I am laying low and watching the ebook battle unfold.

  6. Wow. I can’t even imagine buying any e book readers for my library. About 8 would take my whole budget. What do you do if a students loses or damages one? I can’t get some children to pay for $6 paperbacks. We’re going to have to stick to hard copies for a very long time. One less thing to worry about!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *