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!

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