Last December, ‘ my 12 year-old’ niece’ and not-12 year-old best friend both received Kindles for Christmas. By the time I saw them, both had uploaded a few books and a few games, and both were raving about the size and convenience. It was the first time I’d seen the new editions up close, and they certainly are sleek and clear.

My library currently owns two older edition Kindles (courtesy’ of a donation), and by Christmas, we were still wrestling with to how’ ‘ to acquire and advertise our Kindle eBook collection. In addition, my colleagues and I were debating the fit of a ‘ Kindle purchase model at our library, and so movement with the two we already owned was slow. I thought we had time on this.

But seeing eReaders in the hands of two of my favorite readers, I realized the eBook revolution had to become a priority. It was time for this concept to take center stage. ‘ So I’ve spent this new year trying to catch up on the eBook conversation, and figure out the best way to integrate eBooks into our school library.

I’ve asked myself a few questions: What are different libraries doing to incorporate eBooks and eReading? What are the road blocks? Is there a model out there that our library can follow? How do we’ proceed?

So far, the answers to these questions are vast and varied–‘ Here is some of what I’ve discovered. If you’ve done similar research, I hope you’ll share as well:

On Choosing an eBook vendor:

Many public libraries have joined forces with eBook vendor Overdrive to offer print and audiobook titles to their patrons. ‘ Overdrive provides titles in a variety of formats, though ePUB is a common one. ePUB, apparently is the format that requires an additional Adobe Digital Editions reader for as those titles have DRM (Digital Rights Management) codes attached to them. ‘ Adobe Digital Editions can be installed on most computer systems, and can be linked to eReaders that support ePUB titles. Overdrive works on many types of devices, but not all. They keep a list on their website. (Note: the Kindle is not on the list. Not a supported device).

Overdrive is the name I knew of at the’ beginning’ of this investigation, but as I’ve begun to use it, I’ve seen that there are many steps that must be taken to get a book from vendor to eReader. Overdrive recently launched a app for the iPad, and reviews of their interface echo the clunkiness of this process.

In addition, Overdrive is unable to offer books by certain publishers and other publishers are adding limits to circulation for eBook lending vendors. In other words, questions of ownership of ‘ digital content as well as digital lending rights remain and abound. ‘ The debate continues.

Overdrive is also expensive. I work at a school library, and the subscription cost for this vendor would be larger than several of the databases to which we subscribe. Do we have enough non-Kindle readers in our school to’ warrant’ the expense?

Whatever eBooks our school currently has come through our database vendors. These are primarily reference and academic titles with little in the way of fiction or high interest titles. Plus, these eBooks are currently configured in a more traditional database formatted model. As such, students aren’t able to download these titles onto their personal reading devices.

Follett’s FollettShelf and Baker & Taylor’s Blio solve cataloging questions for eBooks (because how do you do that part?), and make elements of the reading process more genuine, but these products are designed to be used on computers. These books cannot be downloaded onto e-ink ‘ eReaders. Believe me, I’ve tried. Once again, an audience is lost.

EBSCO recently acquired Netlibrary (an eBook vendor that, like Overdrive, ‘ permits device downloads) so perhaps this new venture will prove the best option for my school. Problem is, this venture is not fully up and running. And they too would be bound by publisher license restrictions.

On adding eReaders to our library:

Choosing the device to read eBooks on can be just as challenging. There are a lot of different options out there and many factors to consider. While I’ve ended up purchasing a classic nook for myself (partially because I wanted to read books from my local public library and something that has proven useful while researching), our library hopes to skip this step.

We want to invest in eBooks and not in the device for reading the eBook. But, as you can see from the above section, this may be an approach we end up abandoning. The Unquiet Library has a great LibGuide on adding eReaders and if we go this route, this is a resource I will definitely investigate more fully. Because of the flexibility of eBook platforms available through the nook, I imagine those would be the types of eReaders we would acquire. (Insert nook/kindle debate here).

On how we proceed:

By now you’ve probably realized that we still haven’t found a solution to this puzzle. We have charged an amazon gift card so that we can add eBooks to our two existing Kindles. We have been in touch with Overdrive and Netlibrary vendors. We have added one FollettShelf book to our collection to see what challenges it poses to checkout. But we have not made a’ commitment. Even though I know we should just jump in and fix what gets broken later, I remain in a fog as to the best next step to take.’ We continue to research and test and wait–in hopes that a real solution will avail itself. (So far, no dice.)

We won’t be launching a new eReading system during Teen Tech Week (though we will launch a twitter and facebook page thanks to the advice of earlier TTW posts), but I know we’ll have to respond with heft in some way–and soon.

But how? How have you resolved these questions in your library?

About Kate Covintree

Currently working as an Upper School librarian at an independent school in Rhode Island.

2 Thoughts on “28 Days of Tech #26: eBook dilemmas

  1. Megan Frazer Blakemore on February 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm said:

    If you’re looking for an example Maine has started a state wide eBook lending program through Overdrive. They don’t work on Kindle’s but they do work on other devices.

  2. Kate Covintree on February 27, 2011 at 5:25 pm said:


    Are all libraries in Maine able to use this resource including private colleges and school libraries? And are they able to control what books are added to the collection? If so, how do those libraries get involved? If not, what do those libraries do to promote eBooks?

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