You can add eBooks and eAudiobooks to your library collection to encourage and support reading and research in your school community. Listening to eAudiobooks and using tools incorporated in eBooks (such as looking up words, and changing reading settings) can help struggling readers understand and enjoy texts that would otherwise be difficult for them.
The same collection management strategies you use for print and physical resources apply to eBooks and eAudiobooks as well. Your library's guiding documents show how you manage these within your library collection.
But there are extra considerations to think about for eBooks and eAudiobooks. It’s important to have some background knowledge about these before investing in them for your library.
Publisher licensing models
Publishers, not suppliers, decide on a licensing model for the titles they make available for libraries to buy and lend. A licence has several aspects that you'll need to consider.
Think about the benefits of allowing simultaneous readers to access the same eBook or eAudiobook. Does the publisher offer concurrent (multi-use) licences for a title? For example, do they offer an unlimited multi-use licence, that could let every reader in your school access a title at the same time? Purchasing a multi-use licence may be more cost-effective than purchasing a single copy or a small number of copies of a title.
Number of loans
Publishers may set a limit on the number of times your library can lend a title. This is usually about 25 times. When you reach the maximum number of loans, your licence expires. You’ll need to decide whether to buy a licence again.
Publishers may set a period of time that your licence is valid. This is usually up to 2 years. Some titles may be available with a ‘perpetual’ term.
Publishers sometimes set restrictions on which titles are available in different regions. Some popular titles might not be available to libraries in New Zealand.
Many school libraries thinking about eBooks are considering how to add single user fiction eBooks successfully into their collections but I'd like to encourage them to 'think bigger' and to consider the many benefits of reinvigorating all physical collections (not just fiction) by integrating a wide variety of digital resources and formats (i.e. downloadable audiobooks and databases as well as eBooks, and in particular, simultaneous use eBooks which can be used to transform inquiry resourcing).
— Alison Hewett, Kristin School, Auckland
Trends in eBook reading
A 2016 study by the Pew Research Center shows that those who do still read books are more likely to choose print over eBook format. The study found that readers 'increasingly turn to multipurpose devices such as smartphones and tablet computers — rather than dedicated e-readers — when they engage with e-book content.'
Scholastic’s 2016 'Kids and Family Reading Report' found that this trend is true for children, stating 'More than half of children who have read eBooks (55%) prefer to read print books, with 6 to 8-year-olds being the most likely to feel this way.'
They also found that 'The majority of children (79%) agree they will always want to read print books, even though there are eBooks available.'
Book reading 2016 — Pew Research Center.
Effects of eBook reading
Research on the effects of eReading on children and reading comprehension is still in its infancy. Some research suggests that eReading motivates children to read more. Other research suggests eReading may have a negative effect on children's ability to make sense of more demanding texts.
'The New York Times' referred to research by Schugar and Schugar of West Chester University, in which 'they asked middle school students to read either traditional printed books or e-books on iPads. The students’ reading comprehension, the researchers found, was higher when they read conventional books.'
Students reading e-books are losing out, study suggests — 'The New York Times'.
A second study looked at students’ use of eBooks. They found children often skipped text, preferring the books’ interactive visual features. The writers emphasised the importance of helping young readers transfer print reading skills to eBook reading.
An article in 'The New Yorker' discusses the effects of digital texts on reading speed and comprehension, and the perceived decline in deep reading skills. Cognitive neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf is quoted in the article:
The same plasticity that allows us to form a reading circuit to begin with, and short-circuit the development of deep reading if we allow it, also allows us to learn how to duplicate deep reading in a new environment ... We cannot go backwards. As children move more toward an immersion in digital media, we have to figure out ways to read deeply there.
Being a better online reader — 'The New Yorker'.
Trends and research about eAudiobooks
Audiobooks have been available in various physical formats since the 1930s, including vinyl records, audio cassettes, and CDs. However, the emergence of eAudio, the ubiquity of smartphones, and the development of devices such as smart speakers have driven a huge surge in the use of audiobooks.
The benefits of eAudiobooks are becoming more widely recognised and, in particular, the impact of engagement with eAudio on reading development skills, well-being, and reading for pleasure.
Audiobooks and Literacy: A Rapid Review of the Literature — this report from the UK National Literacy Trust provides an overview of research exploring the role of audiobooks in supporting children’s literacy both at home and in the classroom.
Get set to listen to some great books this summer! — how eAudiobooks can be used to support reading for pleasure.