Ebooks: yes, BUT…

Ebooks: Yes! BUT…

In my previous post Ebooks: yes or no?, I concluded “yes to ebooks”. This view was confirmed by those posted by classmates Horsley (2018) and Ali (2018) in the discussion forum, when they both argue that it is the role of TLs to make a range of literature formats available to our students and (Horsley continues) to educate our communities by developing an understanding of the value of multi-platform experiences and their contribution to 21st century literacy.

A number of readings from ETL402 Module 4 informed my understanding of ebooks and digital literature formats further:

image by Nadine Doerle, downloaded from pixabayHashim and Vongkulluksn (2018) identify “engaged reading” as a critical component driving student learning and long-term academic success (p. 359). They argue that the motivational and cognitive aspects of engaged reading reinforce each other and that engaged readers read and interpret content because they are motivated to do so. Engaged readers further learn to self-regulate their reading and apply learned strategies to real-life and out-of-school reading experiences. (How does this relate to ebooks? Keep reading…)

Cullen (2015) reasons that interactive media captivates children’s attention and allows them to engage with learning in a way that is intrinsically bound to their familiarity with technology. (Keep reading…) Utilizing the affordances of connected and digital ICT (e.g. accessibility, diversity, communication and collaboration, multi-model and non-linear, interaction, dialogue, creativity, organization, inquiry (Canole (2012, p. 84)) allow for the development of innovative forms of literature (or ebooks if you want) that engage multiple senses and encourage active learning through engagement and experimentation. Cullen sees this as an opportunity for active learners to build knowledge, allow for individual differences and provide achievement, success and progression.

In Lamb and Johnson’s (2010) exploration of the connection between literature and multi-media formats, they showed that students are extending their reading experiences, and exploring opportunities and options to include a wide range of technology tools as they explore cross-genre, multi-platform transmedia connections. In practical terms: they may read a book and then use different mobile devices and platforms to explore the topic online and discuss their thoughts on a social network.

The affordances of ICT can then be used to enhance reading in more than one way: through the connected options and opportunities explained above and through the actual features of an ebook.

image by chau_cn, downloaded from pixabayZipke’s (2013) evaluation of ebooks led her to describe the minimal ebook as including illustrations and animation, oral reading of the text, text-highlighting, built in dictionaries and foreign language translations, as well as the ability for the reader to interact with characters and objects (p. 375). Many newer ebooks make use of more advanced affordances, such as voice recognition, touch screens and manipulating (tilting and shaking) of the device (p. 375). The affordances should make reading deeper and richer and not be a distraction, in other words make good use of the medium, while still encouraging independent reading and good literacy practices:

  • the read-aloud enhances comprehension
  • text is displayed prominently, with some form of tracking option
  • word pronunciation and dictionary tools assist with decoding and vocabulary development
  • narration, animation and interactive media support emerging literacy skills (p. 377).

This is the reason I say “Ebooks: yes, BUT…”

Ebooks have the potential to motivate and engage, BUT it must be in conjunction with:

  • strong writing
  • interesting language
  • engaging subject matter
  • developmentally appropriate themes (p. 377)

Sekeres and Watson (2011) points out that the multimediacy (p. 264) of the multimedia literature formats encourages engaged reading and active audiences (p. 261). They argue that these formats of literature – ebooks and their connected environments – allow readers to develop the skills and strategies needed for the “new literacies” needed in the 21 century (p. 260).


Ali, S. (2018, December 30). Re: Task 1: Ebooks & reading [Online forum post]. Retrieved from https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/discussionboard/do/message?action=list_messages&course_id=_35350_1&nav=discussion_board_entry&conf_id=_61731_1&forum_id=_143048_1&message_id=_2029004_1

Conole, G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York, NY: Springer.

Cullen, M. (2015, December 21). How is interactive media changing the way children learn? Retrieved December 29, 2018, from Education Technology website: https://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2015/12/how-is-interactive-media-changing-the-way-children-learn/

Hashim, A. K., & Vongkulluksn, V. W. (2018). E-Reader apps and reading engagement: A descriptive case study. Computers & Education, 215, 358-375. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.06.021

Horsley, D. (2018, December 27). Re: Task 1: Ebooks & reading [Online forum post]. Retrieved from https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/discussionboard/do/message?action=list_messages&course_id=_35350_1&nav=discussion_board_entry&conf_id=_61731_1&forum_id=_143048_1&message_id=_2029004_1

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2010). Divergent convergence part : cross-genre, multi-platform, transmedia experiences in school libraries. Teacher Librarian, 37(5), 76-8.

Sekeres, D. C., & Watson, C. (2011). New literacies and multimediacy: The immersive universe of The 39 Clues. Children’s Literature in Education, 42(3), 256-273. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-011-9133-4

Zipke, M. (2013). Building an e‐Book library: Resources for finding the best apps. The Reading Teacher, 67(5), 375-383. https://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1221





Ebooks: yes or no?

image by Perfecto_Capucine, downloaded from pixabayIs an ebook only an electronic version of a traditional print book that can be read by using a personal computer or by using an eBook reader? No, but they can be…  Is it  any digital publication that can be read on a computer, e-reader, or other electronic device? No, but some are…

O’Connell, Bales & Mitchell (2015) get it right, I think, when they say ebooks can:

  • be read or listened to;
  • can include images and multimedia elements,
  • can have tools for bookmarking and notetaking and links to related and extending resources;
  • they can be multimedia and interactive – allowing active participation (p. 196).


“Are we there yet?” Asks Rothman (2017). Not yet, answers Gray (2017).

It is a difficult decision for a school library to decide whether ebooks are really worthwhile in a school library collection. Gray says they are wonderful, he reads them all the time, but… “they have not reached the tipping point for being the best option in our school library”, but he does admit “ebooks are a question, not of if, but of when”.

Rothman remarks that the use of ebooks in school libraries are relatively new and evolutionary in nature. At the end of her research project with middle school students and Kindle ereaders, she recommends restraint until a school librarian has determined how – or whether – students will use ebooks. But how, Ms Rothman, will you determine this if you do not expose your students to ebooks? Can we really afford to sit and wait until it is all sorted out?

There are so many advantages to ebooks:

  • Never lost, damaged, late
  • Do not take up shelf space
  • Hyperlinks to dictionaries, extended content and translations
  • Ease of reading with changeable fonts and background colours, text to speech features
  • Available immediately, 24/7 and 365


  • Device needed
  • Expensive
  • Different lending models from different publishers, copyright restrictions

It is true that many students prefer the tactile experience of a book, but they need to also experience – and obtain the fluency – of reading an ebook. Our students should be exposed to new ways of perceiving text, or re-imagining text (Parks, 2010, p. 15). Surely this can only happen in the digital connected world, not through paper-based books?

So here is what we are doing at ICSZ…

We have some Kindles with preloaded content (Ms Rothman does not approve), because they are relatively cheap through Amazon and each book can be installed on 6 different devices. This is a really good option of have many copies of very popular books, book club and book competition titles available without it costing too much or taking up shelf space.

We have just joined an Overdrive consortium of local international schools. By pooling our content we should be able to have a large enough group of funds, books and students for a viable option.

Ebooks: yes or no?

Yes, because we have to expose our students to the format to enable them to become first consumers and then producers of the next level, which will hopefully fulfil all the promise Of O’Connell et al.’s definition.

The trick now is: how do we successfully promote our ebooks?



Gray, M. (2017). Ebooks: To subscribe, or not to subscribe? Connections, (101). Retrieved from https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-101/ebooks-to-subscribe-or-not-to-subscribe

O’Connell, J., Bales, J., & Mitchell, P. (2015). REvolution in reading cultures: 2020 vision for school libraries. The Australian Library Journal, 64(3), 194-208. https://doi.org/10.1080/00049670.2015.1048043

Parks, D. (2010). Transforming the library – e-books and e-buildings. In D. Parkes & G. Walton (Authors), Web 2.0 and libraries : impacts, technologies and trends (pp. 13-29). Retrieved from https://primo.csu.edu.au/discovery/fulldisplay?docid=alma991012588295402357&context=L&vid=61CSU_INST:61CSU&search_scope=MyInst_and_CI&tab=Everything&lang=en

Rothman, A. (2017, May/June). E-books in public school libraries: Are we there yet? Knowledge Quest, 45(5), 30-37. Retrieved from https://primo.csu.edu.au/discovery/fulldisplay?docid=proquest1894939174&context=PC&vid=61CSU_INST:61CSU&search_scope=MyInst_and_CI&tab=Everything&lang=en

“Where are the scary books?”…

… Joan asks as she rushes into the library between the lunch break and the beginning of the English class to check out a book for silent reading – she has about 90 seconds to pick a book. James is surrounded by classmates from his English class who are all in the library to check out books and is at least as much interested in socialising and goofing around than in picking a book.

These typical scenarios that sketch the behaviour of many students when they visit the library to choose a book to read. How can we best arrange our collection to meet Joan and James’s needs?

image by klimkin downloaded from pixabayAccording to Bendici (2018), gentrification is the reorganizing of library collections according to genre to simplify it for students to find books and to boost circulation. Instead of following traditional library practice of shelving the fiction collection according alphabetically according to the surname of the author, the collection is sub-divided into smaller sections, according to popular genres.

A study of literature on the subject of genrefication of fiction collections shows a lack of in-depth research and a number of remarkably similar anecdotal accounts about successful genrefication projects written by satisfied librarians with hands-on experience:

Are Dewey’s Days Numbered?

Genres generate renewed enthusiasm for school libraries

How genrefication makes school libraries more like bookstores

“Genrefying” a high school library: A detailed planning document

Genrefy your library: Improve readers’ advisory and data-driven decision making

All of these authors recounted patron’s behaviour similar to that sketched in my introductory paragraph, as the reasons to take this project on. They also refer to the tendency of students to “browse” similar to one would in a bookshop or to ask a librarian to locate a book, rather than use the OPAC. In our increasingly visual culture we need to plan our libraries according to patron usage, not according to systems optimised for librarians administrative loads. We need to organise our libraries in ways that help students to get over the search hurdle (Cornwall, 2018).

Kimmelman (2018) points out that small quality collections that are uncluttered make it easier for users to find what they are looking for. He applies Harris’s theory about choice overload, namely that we need strategies for presenting meaningful choices to our patrons. Genrefication reduces the number of options and positively affects patron self-sufficiency and independence.

What then needs to be done?

  1. Weed the collection if needed (don’t spend time re-classifying books that are outdated)
  2. Determine basic groupings or genres.
    Since neither Dewey nor BISAC are helpful here, librarians may use first-hand
    knowledge about their collection and circulation, or Goodread’s classifications for
    (also see what Sweeney used).Make signs and use symbols and icons where possible.
  3. Add colour-coded and/or textual labels indicating the genre
  4. Update the catalogue with new classification or sublocation, as appropriate (Cornwall, 2018).


What does it take?

  • Time. Time and effort. And planning.

What are the benefits to students?

  • Easily identifiable smaller collections of books of the same “type”.
  • Standing near your favourite book, chances are you are near other books you may like. Or with others who enjoy the same types of books as you.

What are the benefits to librarians?

  • Easier to spot gaps in the collection
  • Easier to recommend books
  • Easier to know the collection
  • Data about circulation, borrowing habits and strengths and weaknesses in the collection enhances decision-making (Sweeney, 2013)
  • Genres support “passive” readers advisory service

What are the problems associated with genrefication?

  • Finding the time and manpower
  • What to do with authors who write in more than one genre
  • What to do with books that fit more than one genre
  • Should non-fiction books be genrefied?
  • What to do with ebooks?

… not too many problems, actually


A personal observation: We jumped in and genrefied the bulk of the collection in just more than a week. It was crazy, but doable. I do think that for students it is easier to find books, I know that as librarian I find it easier to direct them and to make suggestions. Our catalogue (for unrelated reasons) does not yet provide good data, but potentially the genrefication should enable us to make data-driven collection development decisions.

How about genrefying the non-fiction collection? My fingers are itching, but I need to weed and plan really well first.


Bendici, R. (2018, May 24). Genres generate renewed enthusiasm for school libraries. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from District Administration website: https://www.districtadministration.com/article/genres-generate-renewed-enthusiasm-school-libraries

Cornwall, G. (2018, July 22). How genrefication makes school libraries more like bookstores. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from KQED website: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/51336/how-genrefication-makes-school-libraries-more-like-bookstores

Harris, C. (2013). Less is more. School Library Journal, 59(6). Retrieved from https://primo.csu.edu.au/discovery/fulldisplay?docid=proquest1355957640&context=PC&vid=61CSU_INST:61CSU&search_scope=MyInst_and_CI&tab=Everything&lang=en

Kaplan, T. B., Dolloff, A. K., Giffard, S., & Still-Schiff, J. (2012). Are Dewey’s days numbered? School Library Journal, 58(10), 24. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1151777485?accountid=10344

Kimmelman, A. (2018). The wise whys of weeding. Teacher Librarian, 46(1), 20. Retrieved from https://primo.csu.edu.au/discovery/fulldisplay?docid=gale_ofa562488215&context=PC&vid=61CSU_INST:61CSU&search_scope=MyInst_and_CI&tab=Everything&lang=en

Minton, C. (2014, May 4). “Genrefying” a high school library: A detailed planning document [Blog post]. Retrieved from Beyond the Shelves website: https://christyminton.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/genrefying-a-high-school-library-a-detailed-planning-document/

Sweeney, S. (2013, Summer). Genrefy your library: Improve readers’ advisory and data-driven decision making. YALS, 11(4), 41-45. Retrieved from https://primo.csu.edu.au/discovery/fulldisplay?docid=gale_ofa337071006&context=PC&vid=61CSU_INST:61CSU&search_scope=MyInst_and_CI&tab=Everything&lang=en