Now Is the Time: E-Books, Teens, and Libraries

By Braun, Linda W. | Young Adult Library Services, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

Now Is the Time: E-Books, Teens, and Libraries


Braun, Linda W., Young Adult Library Services


E-books, e-books, e-books; a day doesn't go by when there isn't a news story or library announcement related to this topic. It's clear that e-books are not the wave of the future; they are the present, and will play an increasingly big role in the future of libraries. E-books are the present not just for a lucky few, but for the millions who own an e-reader, a tablet, or a smartphone. As the devices capable of supporting e-reading proliferate, so too will the number of people (including teens) who have access to materials available in e-formats.

As e-reading evolves from a trend for libraries to be aware of to an established part of library services, it is critical for teen librarians to be aware of what's going on in the world of e-books and how teens are and will be using them. Teen librarians also need to become a part of the discussion about successfully integrating e-books into collection development, marketing, programming, and outreach. As we head into Teen Read Week[TM] 2011, with its focus on teens reading for the fun of it, it's a good time to think about the present and future of teens, libraries, and e-books.

The Lay of the Land

Consider the following recent news:

* In February, The New York Times published an article entitled "E-Readers Catch Younger Eyes and Go in Backpacks," which included this information: "In 2010 young-adult e-books made up about six percent of the total digital sales for titles published by St. Martin's Press, but so far in 2011, the number is up to twenty percent ..." (1)

* In April the Association of American Publishers reported that as of February 2011, "US publishers sold more e-books than they did books in any other format, including paperbacks and hardcovers." (2)

* In the spring, Amazon made three announcements of interest: the Kindle was available, with ads, at a lower price--$114, it is selling more Kindle ebooks than print books, and Kindle books will be available for library lending via Overdrive sometime in 2011. (3)

These are just a few examples of changes happening every day. Expect the price of e-reading devices to continue to drop, and more and more titles of interest to be available to teens in e-formats. Teens will continue to gain access to devices and materials to take advantage of the format.

E-Reading and Collection Development

This is big. That's clear. This is changing libraries. That's clear. What might not be so clear is what teen librarians need to know and focus on to make sure they are able to build strong e-book collections. Let's look at the similarities between physical book collection development and e-book collection development.

What's the same in collection development no matter the format? The teen librarian:

* Must know the community and constantly assess the needs and interests of teen customers;

* Has to regularly talk with teens to guarantee he or she knows what teens are looking for in the library collection in terms of formats, genres, and subject matter;

* Needs to use a variety of resources and tools to locate materials for the collection;

* Has to continually assess the collection, weeding titles that are no longer of value or interest;

* Needs to make sure there is money in the budget to support the acquisition and maintenance of a strong collection of materials for teens.

If the above are the constants, what are the differences and how do they figure into the equation when focusing on digital formats?

* In an e-reading world, the age of a collection, what is missing from a collection, and where multiple copies are required is much less obvious. A librarian doesn't see materials as they are circulated or are returned or when walking through the stacks. As a result, e-collections require a different type of concerted effort than physical collections when it comes to assessment. …

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