eBooks and eAudiobooks in the school library

eBooks in the library.
Find guidance about adding eBooks and eAudiobooks to your library collection, licensing and rights management, eReading trends and devices, and buying and promoting eBooks and eAudiobooks.

Understanding eBooks and eAudiobooks

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.

Library guiding documents

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.

    Concurrent readers

    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.

    Licence terms

    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

  • 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.

    Concurrent readers

    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.

    Licence terms

    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.

  • 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'.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Formats and devices for eBooks and eAudiobooks

eBook files are generally ePub or PDF format. ePub files offer benefits for readability, including hypertext linking and reader tools such as built-in dictionaries, and the ability to change page and font settings. An additional readability benefit of ePub files is that they are responsive to the device used to view them, so the text flow adjusts automatically to fit the device size. By contrast, PDF files are displayed as the book would appear in print, regardless of device.

eAudiobook files are generally MP3. These files can be downloaded and played on a variety of devices and apps.

Devices

eBooks and eAudiobooks are relevant to members of your school community if they have a device to read or listen on. You’ll need to consider equity of access for students who can’t afford their own devices.

Single- or multi-purpose devices

Many people use dedicated eReaders such as Kindle and Kobo devices for reading eBooks. They are light to hold, use e-ink technology, which makes reading more comfortable for your eyes, and have a long battery life.

According to the Pew Research Center, readers are increasingly using multi-purpose devices such as a smartphone or tablet for reading eBooks and listening to eAudiobooks rather than a dedicated eReader.

Bring your own device (BYOD)

Many schools have BYOD policies that let students connect their own devices to the school’s network. BYOD schemes can include tablets, laptops or smartphones. Any of these devices can be used to read eBooks or listen to eAudiobooks .

School-wide policies about the use of devices at school can support, or perhaps prevent, students’ access to eBooks. Some schools use strategies to prevent distractions or inappropriate use of devices during class time. For example, teachers might set a minimum screen size for devices allowed during sustained silent reading periods. This could be a barrier to students reading eBooks or listening to eAudiobooks in class.

Adding digital books to your collection

Making decisions about adding eBooks and eAudiobooks to your collection is part of your collection management. Well thought out plans and procedures should guide your selection of titles. The same principles apply to these as they do to any item you add to your collection. Your students’ literacy and learning needs should always be central to your collection development decisions.

  • Suppliers

    These suppliers offer eBook and eAudiobook titles suitable for school libraries:

    World Books offers eBooks only.

  • Suppliers

    These suppliers offer eBook and eAudiobook titles suitable for school libraries:

    World Books offers eBooks only.

  • Setting up a consortium

    Developments in eBook and eAudiobook supply have made consortia options available for New Zealand schools. It is possible to develop consortia between groups of schools, or between school and public libraries. If you’re interested in setting up a consortium, talk to schools in your area or your local public library, and eBook suppliers about how you might share eBook collections.

  • Setting up a consortium

    Developments in eBook and eAudiobook supply have made consortia options available for New Zealand schools. It is possible to develop consortia between groups of schools, or between school and public libraries. If you’re interested in setting up a consortium, talk to schools in your area or your local public library, and eBook suppliers about how you might share eBook collections.

  • Providing access to your eBooks and eAudiobooks

    Catalogue eBooks and eAudiobooks you’ve purchased using the same standards you use for print items. This will help your readers find and access them through your online catalogue (OPAC). eBook suppliers can provide records to download into your catalogue.

    Freely available eBooks, eAudiobooks, and online resources can be catalogued using the item’s URL. For example, you can link from your catalogue to an item from the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL).

    International Children’s Digital Library

  • Providing access to your eBooks and eAudiobooks

    Catalogue eBooks and eAudiobooks you’ve purchased using the same standards you use for print items. This will help your readers find and access them through your online catalogue (OPAC). eBook suppliers can provide records to download into your catalogue.

    Freely available eBooks, eAudiobooks, and online resources can be catalogued using the item’s URL. For example, you can link from your catalogue to an item from the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL).

    International Children’s Digital Library

  • Promoting your eBook and eAudiobook collections

    It’s important to make it easy for readers to find and access your eBook and eAudiobook collections. There is no physical item to display, so you’ll need different ways to let readers know what’s available.

    eBook suppliers have materials you can use for promotion. These include posters, bookmarks, logos and other images to download and print, add to your website or use on social media.

    For displays inside your library:

    • use eye-catching cover images displayed amongst your print collection to highlight eBooks and eAudiobooks so that readers who are browsing can see what’s available
    • put stickers on print books to let readers know if they're also available as an eBook or eAudiobook.

    Use email, your school newsletter or your virtual library website to let your school community know:

    • what’s new in your library’s eBook and eAudiobook collections
    • how to access your library’s eBooks and eAudiobooks, including links that make it easy to download apps for reading.

    Your school library online

  • Promoting your eBook and eAudiobook collections

    It’s important to make it easy for readers to find and access your eBook and eAudiobook collections. There is no physical item to display, so you’ll need different ways to let readers know what’s available.

    eBook suppliers have materials you can use for promotion. These include posters, bookmarks, logos and other images to download and print, add to your website or use on social media.

    For displays inside your library:

    • use eye-catching cover images displayed amongst your print collection to highlight eBooks and eAudiobooks so that readers who are browsing can see what’s available
    • put stickers on print books to let readers know if they're also available as an eBook or eAudiobook.

    Use email, your school newsletter or your virtual library website to let your school community know:

    • what’s new in your library’s eBook and eAudiobook collections
    • how to access your library’s eBooks and eAudiobooks, including links that make it easy to download apps for reading.

    Your school library online

Digital rights management (DRM)

To prevent illegal lending and copying, publishers apply digital rights software to eBooks and eAudiobooks. Suppliers such as Amazon, Apple or Google sell eBooks and eAudiobooks for personal use only and often limit reading to a small number of your own devices. Libraries cannot buy eBooks and eAudiobooks this way and add them to their collections for users to borrow. Libraries must buy them through suppliers that have negotiated DRM with publishers and can pass the rights on to libraries.

DRM-free sources

Some eBooks and eAudiobooks are available without DRM. These include titles from a few publishers, but they are still intended for personal use.

Other DRM-free titles are available in the public domain. This means they are freely available for lending, with no permission required.

Project Gutenberg — contains mainly works in the public domain, plus some copyright works distributed with permission. Many titles are available in a range of digital formats.

International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) — this website displays eBooks online. The ICDL has non-exclusive rights to reproduce works in the public domain, and copyright works with permission.

Find out more

Developments in eBooks, eAudiobooks, DRM, and eReader technology move quickly. You’ll need to keep up-to-date if you decide to add eBooks and eAudiobooks to your collection.

Ebook Friendly — lists further sites for eBook news.

New Zealand School Libraries email list ('Listserv') — an online network where occasional eBook and eAudiobook discussions provide a local perspective. You must be a subscriber to access the Listserv and its archives.