E-readers in the Library and Classroom: Kindles? Nooks? iPads? Who knows?

In the May 2011 issue of School Library Journal, the results of the annual technology survey were published.  The survey reflected the rapidly changing role of technology in the school library.  One of the hot topics on the survey was e-books and e-readers.  About one third of the respondents already have e-books as a part of their collection and well over three-fourths of respondents plan to add e-books in the next 5 years. Even with that lofty percentage of libraries who plan to have e-books, almost half of the respondents said they have no plans or priorities for e-books in the next two years. The two main reasons people listed for not having e-books is lack of funding and lack of devices to support e-books.  It’s also confusing and frustrating to compare Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and the many other devices to figure out which one is right for your library and which one supports which e-book format.

I’ll admit it.  For the past three years, I’ve continued to try many technologies in my library and continued to spend the majority of my budget on print materials with little planning going into the e-book realm.  I’ve watched as other librarians (Buffy Hamilton, Jennifer LaGarde, Kathy Parker, and more) have plunged into the unknown to be leaders for the masses on how to implement e-readers and e-books in the library.  Over the past year, I’ve really focused myself on where I might go in an elementary library with e-readers.  I’ve attended webinars, joined the edukindle ning, and extensively read the blogs of educators and librarians giving e-readers a try.  During all of this, I finally started the process of planning for e-books and e-readers in my library.

To tackle the funding issues, I’ve written three grants (awaiting approval), submitted a Donors Choose project (you’re welcome to donate), and asked my PTA for support.  When I started talking to PTA, I was energized by the amount of interest from parents to get e-readers into our library.  They encouraged me to keep applying for grants but also to submit a proposal to PTA.  At the May PTA meeting (which I was not even at), the idea of e-readers was brought up, discussed, and unanimously approved even before my official proposal was in their hands.  However, they needed to spend the money that they allocated in this year’s budget, so my year of thinking had to finally mold into a real plan.

Here are some things I decided:

  • We will start with 6 Nook Colors.  Why Nook Color?  Because it allows me to reach all of my student from preK-5th grade, is user-friendly with its touch screen, is more than just an e-reader, and it’s from a company that I can talk to locally.  Barnes and Noble has been extremely supportive with every question I’ve had and have even offered to come in and help show students how to use the Nooks or let us borrow some Nooks to try out before we buy them.
  • We will start out as book clubs/book groups before Nooks get checked out.  These groups will allow me to show students the full potential of what the Nook can do while at the same time building some confidence and responsibility with the devices.  Once I have several students who know how to use the devices at each grade level, I’ll begin checking them out for use within the school.  At this time, I have no plan for sending Nook Colors home with elementary students, but if the program grows and we get some Wi-fi Nooks, this will probably change.

Here are some problems I had to work through already:

  • Gift cards:  Every person who uses e-readers in school has to work through this problem somehow.  To purchase e-books they must be purchased on a gift card or credit card.  Our district has a “no gift card” policy.  My secretary and I had long conversations with our district’s accounting department and repeated the same information numerous times in different ways until we finally got approved to purchase a gift card.  The key was that I promised I could show detailed receipts for each e-book purchased with the card.  Another key phrase that I used was that the gift card was “strictly for e-book purchases”.
  • Extended warranty/insurance:  If you buy a Nook, Kindle, etc. as a single user, you can purchase an extended 2-year warranty that protects you against drops, spills, etc.  However, Barnes and Noble will not sell you the extended warranty plan if your device is for multiple users.  Their reasoning is that if you are buying 6 Nook Colors and paying $55 each for extended warranty, then you could have just bought another Nook Color.  The manager of the local Barnes and Noble had conversations with the main office about this, but they were firm in their decision.  This is one of the main reasons that I’m not ready to send a Nook Color home with elementary students.
  • Credit Card:  You do have to attach a credit card to your account in order to activate your account.  Some districts use school/district credit cards.  Others us credit card gift cards such as AMEX or VISA.  At the moment, I’m using my own credit card to establish the account.  Before you take a huge gasp at that statement, I’ll point out that another great feature of Nook Color is that you can set a password on the device that must be entered before a purchase can be made.  This password needs to be extremely secure!  Once you establish your account, you load up to 3 gift cards onto your account and e-books are deducted from the gift card first before your card is charged.  It’s important to make sure that you always have a gift card balance before you make a purchase.  The  problem that I ran into right away is that the Nooks are automatically set to buy ebooks with one click.  You have to go into settings and the shop menu to set the device to ask for a password.  When I tested this out at first, I accidentally bought a book without having a gift card loaded yet, so I officially bought the first e-book for the Barrow library.  It was only $6.99, but I won’t make that mistake again!

There is already a buzz of interest at the school about the e-readers.  Teachers are asking what my plan is and are eager to send students to me.  The special education teacher has started researching how these devices can support her students.  The family engagement specialist is brainstorming how these devices might be used with parents in family engagement meetings.  Teachers and staff are wanting to check out the devices to tryout for themselves too.  When you launch into the e-book and e-reader world, it’s a huge plunge and many doors start to open that are unknown.  Just know that when you make the decision, there are many people to network with, many conversations being made public online, and many resources to reference.  It’s important for us to make all of our work public for one another to learn from, but with e-readers and e-books it’s even more important.  When we are transparent about our work, we support the learning of our global community.

Andy Plemmons
School Librarian
David C. Barrow Elementary
Athens, GA


About plemmonsa

School librarian, connected educator,Google Certified Teacher, NSBA 20 to Watch, speaker. Expecting the miraculous every day! http://about.me/andy.plemmons

Posted on May 22, 2011, in Technology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Thanks for sharing. We are considering Nooks and at first I was thinking of getting the simple touch but I may look at the Color ones because as you say, they can be used with picture books with the small kids (we are a PreK12 School). Thanks for sharing, I look forward to seeing more about how your program goes this year.

  2. Thank you so much for your information and sharing. I have taught middle school for 17 years but begin my first LMS position in a few weeks in elementary. I will follow your blog for additional ideas. Thanks again. I love it!

  3. Donna Milner

    Because of many of the problem situations listed here, I chose to go with the FollettShelf for my ebooks. They are accessible anywhere there is an Internet connection, they can be purchased with a school purchase order (we did decide from now on to make a separate PO just for ebooks for internal accounting purposes) and they can’t be lost, stolen or damaged.

  1. Pingback: E-readers: Kindles? Nooks? iPads? Who knows? « Georgia Library Media Association « Barrow Media Center

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