At my school we are currently looking at how we can transform our school library in to something more akin to a university Learning Resource Centre, and one of the things we have been thinking about is how we can expand our library provision to include ebooks and easier access to audiobooks.
We thought about purchasing a few ebook readers and pre-loading them with a collection of key texts and lending out the devices themselves, and there is no easy way to lend ebooks! But thought there must be a better system!
I noticed a growing trend with some public libraries offering ebook services, and whilst visiting my sister I discovered that Surrey library is one of the ones that now offers an ebook service (incidently if like me you don’t live in an area with a eLibrary service then you can sign up to the Surrey eLibrary service.
Surrey use a service provided by Overdrive.com, after some digging I discovered they provide a service for schools!
Overdrive’s School Download Library provides this same service as used for public libraries but for schools!
The way the service works is you pay a set amount (determined by the number of pupils – for up to 2000 pupils you pay $4K), and they provide you with a custom branded website that you can link to your current library provision.
For this $4K you get $2K to spend on building up your school’s custom eLibrary. Some books are available as ‘Always Available’ meaning that as many students as you like can take the book out at the same time, whereas others behave more like traditional books in that once someone has borrowed the book, the next person can reserve the book once it is returned.
eBooks can be read on PCs or Macs, or any compatible eBook reader (i.e. one that can ready ePub files encrypted with Adobe DRM – this includes the Sony eBook readers, but excludes devices like Amazon’s Kindle and at present the iPad).
Audiobooks are available on a wider range of platforms and can be listened to on PCs, Macs, iPods, Zunes, and Android devices.
From what I can tell (although their website isn’t very clear) you continue to pay $4K every year and can add a further $2K of books (audio or ebook) to your virtual library. The nice thing about a virtual library is that as the books take up no space you never need to throw out the old ones!
This isn’t a cheap option, as clearly you could just buy twice as many books (as half the money goes to pay for the service), but it may appeal to a different group of students who are less likely to use a traditional library. I particularly think that the audiobooks (downloaded to their personal ipods etc) may well appeal to a different group of students.
The school could also purchase 2-3 Sony eBook readers (and lend these out as well, although this might be more or less practical depending on your students… They could be used for reference within the library, if lending for home use wasn’t appropriate).
This is certainly an area that will grow in schools, as ebooks become more mainstream. Overdrive have said they are working on adding the ebook reading to their iPod/iPhone client which would certainly open it up to a wider market. I would be nice if it worked with Kindles, but you can’t have everything and Amazon have chosen to only support their own DRM.
What about your schools? Are you doing anything with eBooks or do you have plans to?