E-readers at the MA Library

This post could go on for quite a while, so for those time-pressed readers, here are the salient details:

  • The MA Library has purchased 12 Kindle Fires for circulation (2-week circulation)
  • You can now request an e-book for immediate reading on a device (yay!)
  • In order to check a Kindle out, you need to fill out a user agreement including a parent signature (these are available here or at the front reference desk or on the library’s MyMA pag)

If you are interested in some of our reasoning, some of the challenges, and some further ideas, please continue…

People often have asked us if we offer e-books. After all, they’re available from a variety of retailers, can be read on a ton of different devices, and are offered by a lot of libraries. So we started researching what offering e-books would entail, and, wow, there was a lot to learn. I mean a lot!

In a nutshell, there are several e-book distributors which work with libraries, and basically these companies lease access in a variety of ways with a variety of plans (it’s a little like choosing a plan for your cell, but more opaque and frustrating).  Some offer text books, some offer best-sellers, some offer many copies per title, some don’t, some offer downloads of books as ePub files and some require you to have access to the web and read from their site. And these are just a few facets; what we basically learned is that e-books are basically only easy when you are buying one for yourself.  Which is interesting.

Imagine if tomorrow you were to go to city hall, your school’s leadership, your company’s CEO, and say, “Hey. So I have this idea; I’d like to create a place where anyone can visit, can request books, DVDs, music, information, time on devices, advice, and a bunch of other stuff, and we’ll give it to them if they tell us they’ll bring it back, so that we can then give it to someone else for a while. And this will be free. In fact, I’d like you to pay for it.” You can imagine the response, right? Libraries are pretty unique institutions and whether they’re academic or public, support human rights: the right to better oneself and find out about the world around them. They support equality, and are one of the very few institutions which do not work on a capitalist model. And this relates to Kindles how you ask?

Well, Amazon designed the Kindle to basically act as a store-front for their site which is there to sell you a lot of stuff, e-books included. As such they have created a great e-reader, and have made purchasing really easy. But they are also there to sell books, not help lend them out. So rather than buying 400 copies of every book and buying 400 devices on which to load them, we decided to just dip our toe into the water with the purchase of a few. If everyone loves them, then maybe we move to a different model which allows you to check out books on your personal tablets and phones. If otherwise,  we can stick with what we have for a while.  It was this acknowledgment of the complexity of e-book circulation tied to the uncertainty of reception that spurred the idea to actually circulate the devices.

What’s cool about this is that there, eventually, will be a lot of books on those readers from which to choose. And if some titles prove really popular we can purchase them for other Kindles or as books. Also exciting is the speed of acquisition: if you needed a book yesterday, and a Kindle is available for checkout, you can request the book and have it in under ten minutes!  I’m also looking forward to interactive e-book titles–those books designed or re-designed for an electronic reading experience).  I am also really happy that for some students with reading challenges, the devices can actually read aloud the titles as they highlight each word. How cool is that?

How to do it:

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