Books, Collection Development, Student stuff

Will our ebooks fly off the screen?

While at my last school, I was asked to present on ebooks and our school’s experience. Porter’s is a 1:1 iPad school and virtually all of the student’s textbooks were digital, so when one third of the students responded saying they preferred print was not a surprise. Some of the answers why included that because they were on a screen all day for school, reading for pleasure in print meant that they could have a very different experience, one detached from their academic pursuits. I’ve heard from others (both librarians relating their students’ experiences and students themselves) that the ability to browse, “taste” a book, and see what their friends are reading is also important to their experience.

Part of my reluctance to invest in ebooks at Milton was based on hearing those comments. But… COVID. And we didn’t want to lose our Middle School readers, many of whom came in almost weekly to pick new books, nor those Upper School readers who picked up a stack before long weekends and vacations. So we went with SORA and began setting it up.

And then in September this article appeared in the Washington Post: Kids used to love screen time. Then schools made Zoom mandatory all day long. My heart sank. Would we be spending time and effort purchasing and promoting these new ebooks only to have them sit there, online, never making it to the students’ ereaders (and I’m including the laptop screen here)? It’s still early days, but there seems to be enough movement for me to be cautiously hopeful… the problem is that SORA’s metrics don’t include how long a book is “borrowed” for, so it’s difficult to tell if a book has been returned unread or if the borrower has read a few pages and then returned it, or obviously, read it all the way through.

Now that we’ve started the “curbside” circulation program, it will be interesting to see which is preferred and whether we’ll keep SORA past the COVID era, and if not being on Zoom all day makes a difference. Stay tuned.

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