CMCIG 2012: Managing eBooks for Kids

Kathy Yoder, Education Librarian
William T. Jerome Library, Bowling Green State University

What do Curriculum Materials Centers want in an eBook platform for children? The same thing all libraries want: an easy, logical, and attractive interface for users, unlimited access for unlimited users, a variety of publishers offering both fiction and informational texts, titles that are tablet/smartphone compatible, and MARC records for our catalog. Yes, we want all this and we want the final puzzle piece: affordability. All of this is good and well, but the world isn’t a wish-granting factory (thanks, John Green for reminding us), so what is a Curriculum Materials Center to do?

My quest for answers all started because I simply couldn’t ignore eBooks for kids anymore, although I’ve tried. Early examples of children’s eBooks were often clunky and uninspiring and my strategy was to wait until publishers offered a product I could be excited about. Finally my tipping point arrived based on three things: kids’ eBooks are becoming user friendly and in some cases quite impressive, Education faculty are starting to show a real interest in them, and eBook purchases at our institution are moving past the experimental stage. I wanted to get in on a piece of the eBook pie at the ground level .

At this point I decided to try to get my head around what is available. My experience with eBooks at my public library has been rocky at best. As much as I hate the hassle of being on the reader end of eBook checkouts I knew I didn’t want to be on the other end of that headache. So I came up with my dream list as described in the first paragraph. I considered how children’s eBook might be used by pre-service teachers in the classroom. I took into account the requests by faculty on what they would like to see. The last thing I did was take a whole lot of test drives on various free trials and watched demo after demo.
While checking out the different platforms I kept in mind how I thought the eBooks might be used by our Education students. Since interactive whiteboards are nearly commonplace in classrooms in our area, I want kids’ eBooks that can be projected and used interactively on them. To me, this option is very exciting for student teachers and how they will be sharing books in the future. A web-based eBook format fits this type of use.

Tutoring is another very popular way our students interact with children and I want them to be able to use eBooks for that. Our School of Teaching and Learning recently acquired tablet computers for tutoring use, so children’s books that work on iPads would be ideal. For this use a downloadable format would be required. I determined that I’m primarily looking for picture books of various complexity, both fiction and nonfiction while I am not interested in providing children’s texts that download onto standard eReaders.

The following are some of the products that I’ve looked at. Some are platforms provided by aggregators, while others are platforms from publishing companies. Follow the links and check them out, and please add suggestions for others in the comments.

Mackin VIA

This one will be demonstrated at our workshop. This platform offers a large selection of children’s eBooks and is particularly strong in informational texts.

Follett Shelf 
Another platform from an aggregator. Allows you to select titles in bundles or individually.

This platform offers books from Rosen, Gareth Stevens, Britannica Education, and Windmill publishers. It suffers from severe unattractiveness.

The children’s collection doesn’t have much for pre-service teachers.

Strong in text, and is compatible with many types of devices, but can’t be used with shared devices (everything has to be downloaded).

Axis 360 and Blio 
Baker and Taylor’s platform. Not clear about the extent of children’s content.

Scholastic BookFlix (grades PreK-3 ) 
- and -
TrueFlix (grades 3-5) 
Scholastic publishers offer a small but focused collection, designed with whiteboard use in mind.

For younger children. Since they don’t require a log in this can be viewed at library websites such as http://kids.nypl.org/reading/Childrensebooks.cfmInfobase 

Publishing eBooks 
Offers Facts on File, Chelsea House, World Almanac among others.

Disney Digital Books
Institutional subscriptions not available as a stand alone. In some aggregators.

ebrary for High Schools 
Even the promotional material is boring, but then again I’m more interested in content for younger kids.

Capstone Interactive Library 
This one comes from the publisher.

Sesame Street eBooks 
Like Disney, this is for home purchase as a stand alone but is available in some aggregators.

Crabtree ebooks
Another single publisher offering.

* Submitted by Kathy Yoder

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