Blogger Digital Content Task Force

Kids and Library ebooks

The debates about library access to ebooks rage on. Have you stopped to think about what it all means for kids?

The library could be meeting kids every day on their favorite device. They could get the next book in the hottest series or the biography they have to read for tomorrow without begging for a ride. Maybe they think it’s cooler to read on a device than in a book or want to listen to downloadable audio while following along in the print.

But the barriers to access for ebooks affect kids too. Here are some questions I’ve been asking.

Are the books kids want most available from the library?

Kids don’t always have money of their own to spend on books. Many rely on the library to buy books for them. Not long ago I received a request for an ebook-only title, the second book in a series. We had the first book in print, but, for now, the subsequent books will be in ebook only, and unavailable to libraries at all. Kids can’t always buy the book they want, but they should be able to trust that the library can get it for them.

Are kids able to easily access the books they want on the devices they have?

Formats and compatibility are confusing enough for adults. Kids have the technical ability to figure a lot out on their own, but they don’t have much patience when things are harder than they should be.  They need to be able to download direct to their device. Preschoolers and early elementary kids mostly access content their parents put on a tablet, tweens should be able to get what they need on their phone or ipod Touch.

Is the formatting and layout of library ebooks at least as cool as print, even if it isn’t quite as cool as the app?

Physical libraries aren’t filled anymore with plain bookcloth rebinds with yellowed pages. A kid who sees an app on a friend’s ipad shouldn’t be disappointed by the downloaded ebook. If you haven’t already, check out some library e-picture books and see how they measure up.

My tween daughter has magic in her pocket. She uses her ipod to text her friends, play games, ask for a ride home, and read and listen to library books. But even though “all her friends” have ipods, she’s the only one using the library. Is your library meeting kids on their devices? What questions are you asking?

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This month’s blog post by Rachel Wood, ALSC Digital Content Task Force (virtual committee)
Youth Collections Librarian
Arlington (VA) Public Library

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