To study ebook adoption by kids and school libraries, School Library Journal and Follett School Solutions recently released the Sixth Annual Survey of Ebook Usage in the U.S. School (K-12) Libraries (September 2015).
Optimism about ebook adoption in schools has run high for the last few years, but this study provides some interesting news. Depending on where you fall on the issue – pro-eBook or pro-printBook – the details are shifting.
Reading on eBooks May Hamper Learning. In the past year, several research studies report that reading on ebooks may hamper understanding and/or retention of information, especially putting events into a time order. However, the studies come with a big question mark: “what about ‘ebook’ or mobile-device natives?” Kids growing up today who have known only computers and smart phones may develop differently – the research is still out.
USABILITY PROBLEMS: Too Many Standards, Too Many Passwords. Students and school libraries have too many conflicting choices for reading an ebook. On Kindle alone, there are eight different devices and apps for another 27 devices. If a school library tries to commit to one device, say Kindle or Nook, the rapidly changing landscape means their ebook collection could rapidly become out-dated and unusable. Education distributors work around this by providing browser-based ebook readers (again, they are proprietary) that can be accessed by any device with a browser. Even getting around the problem of devices, students then have to contend with accounts and passwords. Digital security demands that schools maintain strict control of access to the ebooks. In my opinion, this is the biggest factor limiting the wide-spread adoption of ebooks in schools. The answer, of course, is for companies to stop haggling over their proprietary devices and strictly adhere to the international ePub3.0 standards. That’s unlikely.
In the short term, the companies may feel it’s imperative to slug it out over the best platform for delivering and reading ebooks. In the long run, I think they are hurting themselves by alienating students and school staff. If it continues for long, educators may decide it’s not worth it and turn back to only print resources.
eBooks are Available in Schools. Across the US, about 56% of schools report that ebooks are available. But students don’t often choose them (see standards/passwords above for at least a partial explanation). Nonfiction related to school projects edges out fiction titles in popularity. Only 6% of schools report a high interest in ebooks, 37% report moderate interest, and 57% report low or no interest. Availability doesn’t equal use. Kids aren’t feeling the love for ebooks!
Parents Demand Technology. Interestingly, it’s often parents who demand technology in the classroom. Over 20% of schools have a one-to-one device policy, which means that each child has a device for at least part of a day; another 24% plan to add one-to-one soon. But the problems are massive, from funding to implementation (see the standards/passwords above). While this study doesn’t cover parental or students attitudes toward ebooks, the Scholastic 2015 Kids and Parents Reading Report says that 65% of kids say they’ll always want to read print, up from 60% in 2012. Teenagers tend to read more when introduced to ebooks; on it’s top 12 list of things parents can do to encourage more reading, providing more ebooks holds the number 12 position. Read the Scholastic report for more details on the parent’s views on ebook reading.
Are your books available as ebooks? Do you read more print or ebooks? Do your kids/grandkids read more print or ebooks?