eBooks in the library

Ebooks bring opportunities and issues for your school library and community. Find guidance about adding ebooks to your collection, including licensing and rights management, e-reading trends and devices, and buying and promoting ebooks.

Understanding ebooks

The same collection management strategies you use for print and physical resources apply to ebooks as well. Your library's guiding documents show how you manage ebooks within your library collection.

Library guiding documents

But there are extra considerations to think about for ebooks. It’s important to have some background knowledge about these before investing in ebooks for your library.

  • Publisher licensing models

    Publishers, not ebook 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. 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 ebook 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. 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 eReading

    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 6–8 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 (pdf) — Pew Research Center

    Kids and Family Reading Report | Australia (pdf) — Scholastic (2016)

  • Trends in eReading

    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 6–8 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 (pdf) — Pew Research Center

    Kids and Family Reading Report | Australia (pdf) — Scholastic (2016)

  • Effects of eReading

    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 — 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 eReading

    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 — 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

  • Devices for eReading

    Ebooks are relevant to members of your school community if they have a device to read on. You’ll need to consider equity of access to ebooks 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. 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 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.

    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 in class.

  • Devices for eReading

    Ebooks are relevant to members of your school community if they have a device to read on. You’ll need to consider equity of access to ebooks 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. 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 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.

    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 in class.

Adding ebooks to your collection

Making decisions about adding ebooks to your collection is part of your collection management. Well thought out plans and procedures should guide your selection of ebook titles. The same principles apply to ebooks 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 titles suitable for school libraries:

  • Suppliers

    These suppliers offer ebook titles suitable for school libraries:

  • Setting up a consortium

    Developments in ebook 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 an ebook 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 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 an ebook 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

    Catalogue ebooks 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 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

    Catalogue ebooks 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 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 collection

    It’s important to make it easy for readers to find and access your ebook collection. 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, 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.

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

    • what’s new in your library’s ebook collection
    • how to access your library’s ebooks, including links that make it easy to download apps for reading.

    Your school library online

  • Promoting your ebook collection

    It’s important to make it easy for readers to find and access your ebook collection. 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, 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.

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

    • what’s new in your library’s ebook collection
    • how to access your library’s ebooks, 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. Suppliers such as Amazon or Whitcoulls sell ebooks for personal use only and often limit reading to a small number of your own devices. Libraries cannot buy ebooks this way and add them to their collections for users to borrow. Libraries must buy ebooks through suppliers that have negotiated DRM with publishers and can pass the rights on to libraries.

  • DRM-free sources

    Some ebooks 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 ebook formats.

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

  • DRM-free sources

    Some ebooks 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 ebook formats.

    International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) — the website displays the ebook 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, DRM, and eReader technology move quickly. You’ll need to keep up-to-date if you decide to add ebooks to your collection.

Ebook Friendly — lists further sites for ebook news

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