These strategies will help you design an eBook implementation

eBook-webAs districts increasingly move to digital content, many school leaders are chucking printed textbooks in favor of the more interactive content that eBooks and digital texts can offer.

Ann Fondren, retired district library coordinator for Spotsylvania County Schools (Va.), outlined a number of key considerations district library media specialists and administrators must keep in mind as they move to eBooks during “Take the Plunge with eBooks,” an edWeb webinar.

“I believe it’s eBooks and print books that can live quite happily in your library,” Fondren said. “eBooks are just another format to enhance our collections–I don’t believe eBooks eliminate the need for print books or will anytime soon.”

In Spotsylvania County, the district launched Follett eBooks district-wide through Destiny Library Manager, funded with division end-of-year money.

Recent data from Scholastic indicates that the percentage of children who have read an eBook has almost doubled since 2010–25 percent versus 46 percent. Half of children ages 9-17 said they would read more book for fun if they had greater access to eBooks.

(Next page: 8 considerations for eBooks)

Students also have indicated that they are less sensitive about their reading abilities when they are reading an eBook, because their peers can’t tell if they are reading below grade level.

1. Read an eBook

“Even if you’re a purist, and you want to remain loyal to print books, you need to read a variety of eBooks to see what it’s like before you start introducing them to your kids,” Fondren said. It’s also a good idea to read a book on any devices you might be considering, too.

2. Research eBook best practices

“Do what we all do best–research to see what others are doing. We don’t all have to reinvent the wheel,” Fondren said.

3. Identify and outline goals and objectives to be realized by adding eBooks to your school library

“If your answer is, ‘I don’t know,’ you probably need to go back and do a little more research before you move on,” Fondren said. Student preference, providing another reading format, providing curriculum support, and professional reading resources are all good reasons to add eBooks to a school library collection.

Starting small and working up to a larger implementation is one way to add eBooks successfully, yet slowly.

It’s also important to realize that not every book will be available as an eBook–another reason why schools should realize that print books are not going away.

4. Build in curriculum support

Ensure that the eBooks’ content correlates with curriculum. Librarians should ensure that the informational texts they purchase as eBooks are truly aligned with standards, and not too general.

“You’re the curriculum developer for your library and you want to make sure you know what [content] you’re getting,” Fondren said.

5. Involve stakeholders

“I worked very hard to make sure my stakeholders knew ahead of time–they don’t always like surprises,” Fondren said. School administrators also need to be involved at every step, as does a school’s technology staff.

“If you’re purchasing eBooks to support your curriculum, involve your teachers,” Fondren said. “They’re the people at the front lines.”

6. Secure and allocate funding

“Where is your funding going to come from? If you don’t have any money, that’s a huge issue, and your library just isn’t going to [be able to] do it,” Fondren said. It’s important to identify a funding source, how much money will be spent on an eBook launch, and if funding is annual or from a one-time source.

If there isn’t enough funding for school-wide eBooks, purchasing a smaller number to target a specific group of students is another option.

Securing grants is another funding possibility.

“The funding is a huge issue because none of us have much, and we need to decide the best way to do it,” she said.

District purchasing regulations can’t be ignored, either.

7. Identify technology and devices

“You really have to think carefully about it,” Fondren said. “Are you going to provide devices for your students? If so, what kind and how many?”

Determining what impact devices will have on a student population, identifying what devices (tablets, traditional eReaders, etc.), and what eBooks will work on school-provided devices are all key components of the device consideration.

8. Plan for hardware and infrastructure needs and maintenance

“You really need to understand the hardware and infrastructure for what you’re doing,” Fondren said. “Even if you’re doing something non-device-driven, like a web-based software…where you’re pulling the eBooks right off the web, you still need to know the browser requirements, any plugins, their minimum requirements as well as their recommended requirements.

Network capability can often be overlooked–if devices require wireless access, does your school have wireless? Some educators have wireless access from laptop carts with wireless cards, but that won’t support an eBook device that requires wireless access.