December 16, 2009

Wait for it...


Carolyn Foote had a post last week about trying to figure out which ebook reader might become the standard so she could start getting them for her high school students.

Now before I go any further, I must remind you that I am not currently a librarian nor do I work in a high school. So take everything I say with a big stinging grain of salt.

I say wait it out a little longer. I know we're supposed to be agents of change and early adopters and all that, but there doesn't seem to be any "there" there yet. Despite Joyce Valenza practically running an ad on her blog for the Nook, it sounds less than promising to others.

These are probably great little gadgets for personal use, frequent travelers and those with big reading appetites and cramped living quarters. However, I'm curious about the need for them in school libraries. They seem prohibitively expensive for checkout and I wonder about the demand. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe all the high school librarians out there have a million requests to checkout ereaders. If so, let me know and I'll post the news. And if they are clamoring, then they'll tell you what they want.

But I just don't see it. To me, jumping in now is equivalent to snapping up those old Laser Disc players back in the '80s. I worked in a video rental store for a while that carried a bunch of those LP-sized discs and then watched a Blockbuster open up across the street and begin carrying DVDs. Needless to say, that little video store dried up and blew away.

I know, I know, libraries aren't commercial enterprises and don't need to "compete" in the same way but the ebooks and their readers, as shiny and new as they are, are still a minuscule fraction of a percent of the publishing world. It seems much too soon to be diverting precious resources to such a vague and amorphous proposition.

I would rather spend my energy helping students find free ebooks for their phones or laptops or whatever they're looking for. Daily Lit, Project Gutenberg, Google Books, and more.

When there's a standard, we'll know. I imagine it will be phones. Cameras, flip video, netbooks, tablets, mp3 players and phones all seem to be shrinking and morphing into each other. Everyone loves their phones. I'm guessing in within ten years or so they'll all be one thing and it'll be in our phone. People like their books and cameras and all, but they feel like they practically need their phones. When the Apple/Google/Whatever super-mega ebook reading phone comes out, you'll know you have a standard. Until then, I'd either wait or be guided by your population of readers.

Can't wait to hear your views on this one. Fire away in the comments!

(image via babygotbooks.com)

15 comments:

C.B. James said...

My TBR stack is not limited to actual books. I'll never get through them all. I know it. I read two to three books a week, sometimes four to five during vacations, but I keep adding to the TBR stack.

Should I ever come into possession of an e-reader.....

I shudder to think of it. In fact, that's probably the main reason why I haven't got one yet.

Teacherninja said...

I hear you, C.B. I have enough unread books to last my lifetime. They'll need to let me trade them in for ebooks if they want me to get an ereader. Ereaders would make it too easy for me to go nuts! I need things that make purchasing and reading books harder, not easier! And I can't see how my daughter's picture books would ever look good on one...

Bethany said...

I was at a Christmas party last weekend and spoke with a librarian from a posh private school in our area. She told me she had recently written a grant and received 15 Kindles for their library.

I'm a reading teacher so this shocked me at first. I love being able to go to the library and check out FREE books. I get a huge stack and then pick and choose whatever I'm in the mood for at the moment. I also love having a book in my hand, flipping the pages, and hopefully finding left behind notes, highlights, etc. from past readers showing the history of that book.

I see the benefit in ereaders, however. The screen is different than on our other electronic gadgets. I can't sit in front of my computer and read an entire novel. That would kill my eyes.

Also, being able to travel with an ereader is much more practical than with a heavy stack of books.

That being said, I don't own an ereader nor will I get one anytime soon, but I've got a feeling the variations will be more accessible than the laser vs dvd craze.

Teacherninja said...

Bethany, I agree. They are better than a huge stack of books, but how often do students take out that big of a stack from the school library? And if they're doing research, isn't it better to have more than one text open at a time? I think it is, but maybe I'm wrong. I definitely see the benefit of travelling. Did Posh Spice Librarian say what her reasons were for going with the Kindle and how they were going to be used? I can see in the future that if every student had their own ereader that it would be great. The "library" could have way more "books" and they could have all of their textbooks and PDFs and such on them, but I still think it would be a pain to toggle from the textbook to an encyclopedia, to a primary text and back rather than have them all laid out in front of you. Of course, I'm old so my brain might work differently. Thanks for the comment! --Jim

Michael Taylor said...

I like the Staza reader app on my iPhone. It's nice to have a stack of the classics in my pocket to read when I have a few minutes and didn't bring a book. But there is something about a real book that really appeals to me.
My dad used to read with a highlighter or a red pencil. It's nice to re-read books that he's read to see what he felt was important.

Teacherninja said...

Michael,
Sounds cool. I have the most un-smart phone ever, so can't try it out but can definitely see the appeal. I don't care how people read, as long as they read. And I want to get them whatever format will work. I just wonder how many high school kids are asking for these ereaders. Maybe those that have them already are looking for more ebooks? I'm waiting to find out. Thanks!

Michael Taylor said...

Noah has been locking himself in his room and reading for hours at a time lately. He's found a series that he really enjoys and he's on the third book. We asked him about the other books in the series and he was able to tell us about all of them. It's a welcome change from the Capitan Underpants stuff he used to read.

Teacherninja said...

It's the Percy Jackson series and it is cool. Books he'll like after that: Green's Tales of the Greek Heroes, the 39 Clues series, the Artemis Fowl series, and the On the Run series. And Harry Potter, of course, if he hasn't already read those.

Daniel said...

Hi Jim,

I am a librarian, though not a school librarian. I think you're giving great advice.

My biggest concern about all of the e-readers that have come out so far is that they are all tied to proprietary formats, and at least in the case of Kindles, subject to remote control by the server. I don't want my bookshelf to be be subject to a delete key without my consent.

Proprietary formats are a problem because you're usually tied to a single vendor. If they go out of business, you'll likely be out of luck.

When a reader comes out that primarily does open formats, including PDFs, I'll take a second look.

Until then, I think your laserdisc analogy has something to it.

Jim said...

Daniel,
Sounds right. That proprietary thing seems like a big speedbump to me. I think you're correct about the need to open it up before libraries start larger adoptions.
Thanks for commenting!

the unquiet librarian said...

Jim, I agree completely with you. While Nook, Kindle, and the Sony e-reader are the brave pioneers, I do not feel any of these products will become our "go to" standard based on the reading and research I have done.

Like you, I think the phone or some type of super phone/tablet will be the vehicle. If the rumored Google Book model/vision comes to fruition, like others, I feel that will do for ebooks what iTunes did for music.

I like being an early adopter, but I also don't want something that will be obsolete in 6-12 months. I can't wait to see how this plays out!

Franki said...

I remember when people told me that I would not write on paper with a pen anymore because of computers. I figured computers were a great tool for publishing but never thought I would be able to compose without a pen in my hand. How wrong I was. I do have a Kindle because I want to see what it is all about. Honestly, when you are in the midst of a great book, it doesn't matter what you are holding in your hand-=hardback, paperback, Kindle--the story takes over. I still read mostly books but the Kindle was much easier to get used to than I thought. A good book is a good book no matter the form.

Jim said...

Buffy,

Being an early adopter is cool, but maybe for personal stuff and not for the library until we know what's what. It'll be interesting to see what happens...

Franki,

I totally agree that differing formats are not a problem. I read books, mags, computers, audio, etc.

Thanks for the comments!

Ms. Yingling said...

E book readers are about 25 years away for most school libraries, if even then. I still have video tapes and no DVDs. Do have some laser disk players-- there must have been a grant. There is just no money in most schools for this technology at this point. Sigh.

Jim said...

Ms. Yingling,

Would you buy some if you could?