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ebooksOver the past several years, electronic books known as e-books have become increasingly popular. This page will examine e-books including web-based books, fiction apps, and books designed specifically for ebook readers.

An electronic book or (ebook, e-book, eBook) is a book-length publication in a digital form. Consisting of text, graphics, and sometimes audio, video, animation or other enhanced elements, these books are readable on an e-book reader, computer, or other electronic device such as a smartphone, tablet, or other hand-held device.

Electronic books are a great way to encourage reluctant readers to immerse themselves in books. While some youth enjoy the paper book experience, others are immediately drawn to Kindles, Nooks, and tablets.

Read Americans' Reading Habits Over Time from the PewResearchCenter. What are the implications of changing reading habits?

Read Agosto, Denise E. (2012). More than just books: children's literacy in today's digital information world. Children & Libraries, 10(3), 36-40.

The Shift

When I was growing up, paper sacks were the only choice at the grocery store. Today, most stores use plastic bags and many people are bringing in their own cloth bags. When I go to the library, I expect to check out a book made of paper. But, why not re-writeable paper presented electronically on a piece of e-paper made of plastic and tiny electrical components? It serves the same function as paper, but doesn't require trees or batteries. Or, I might go to the library and check out a Kindle full of classic books. I wouldn't even need to go to the physical library. I could download an e-book on my iPad from home.


After a decade building technology and an audience, electronic reading has hit the tipping point. According to an article in Publisher's Weekly, 49% of all publishers indicated that e-books are of high importance to their growth plans. They also note that the introduction of the iPad and price cuts in the Kindle have resulted in a significant increase in digital reading devices. However, they also note that 74 percent of college students still prefer a print textbook for classroom use.

Read the 2012 ebook Usage Reports from Library Journal.
Read Ebook Pricing. Think about the cost of e-books.

For those who love traditional books, don't despair. E-ink will soon revolutionize traditional books. E-ink allows books to be reused over and over. Readers receive a "blank" book containing special paper. They simple "scan" the book and the pages are automatically printed. Rather than wood paper, the pages are made of tiny electronic material.

Many e-books are being sharing using multiple formats and devices. For instance, the International Children's Digital Library has a website with a built-in tool for reading e-books. There's also a free app that can be used on the iPad.

packingYoung adult readers find many quality fiction and nonfiction books available in electronic formats. Mary Roach is the author of many popular science books for teens and adults. Packing for Mars is available in the print format, but also in the iBookKindle, and Nook format. Readers can also enjoy it as an audio CD or MP3 Audio.

Whether reading on an e-ink reader, smartphone, or tablet, it's important to remember it's the content that's important. E-books are a great way to motivate young readers.

Barack Obama's Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters is available in the Kindle book format. For more examples, go to Amazon's Children's eBooks section.

Many popular authors are producing electronic book versions of their books. For instance, the Hunger Games series and others by Suzanne Collins are available for Kindle, as well as classics like the Encyclopedia Brown series. Imagine being able to check out the entire series on a Kindle rather than one book at a time! The Boxcar Children and Magic Tree House series are also being published in the Kindle format.

Some publishers are creating special ebooks to promote series. For instance,The Death of Joan of Arc by Michael Scott is an inexpensive Kindle book tie-in for his Immortal series.

FlippedTeens are drawn to biographies with multimedia elements. For instance, Reckless Road: Guns N'Roses contains multimedia enhancements including online extras.

Apolo Ohno's autobiography Zero Regrets weaves video clips throughout the book. The Kindle Edition and iBook versions provide links within the text. The Kindle version is called an enhanced version with audio and video.

Knopf Books for Young Readers created an enhanced e-book for the Kindle of Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen that includes footage from the movie and original songs (see image on right).

Some groups are focusing on particular types of e-books. For instance, the Digital Manga Publishing website focuses on manga for Kindle, iPhone, iPad and other formats.

Viz media produces manga for children and young adults. When you combine this popular format with the e-reading experiences, you may be able to motivate reluctant readers. Below is a manga book on an iPad.


Read Ebooks for Youth Encourage Reading for Fun by Matt Enis in School Library Journal (2013).

e-Books and e-Book Readers

Over the past several years, e-book readers have become a popular tool for electronic reading. In the past issues of high cost an incompatibility have plagued the industry. However the recent wave of e-book readers has changed all of this.

An ebook is a book delivered as an electronic file. Software is needed to run your ebook on your computer or your handheld device. Some books are produced in special e-book formats that can be only be viewed on a special ebook reader. In most cases, you have three choices for viewing your e-book.

First, you can read an e-book on your computer or laptop.

Second, you can read an e-book on many devices including smart phones.

Third, you can read Kindle and Barnes, Noble's Nook, or other ebook reader.


Some of the options include:

E-Ink Readers

Smartphones and Mini Tablets


Read Jonker, Travis (2012). Travid's Excellent Adventure: or 'how to launch a thriving ereader program in a rapidly changing world. School Library Journal. Available through IUPUI.


Ebook Readers in the Library

There are pros and cons to circulating ebook readers in your library.

Pros Cons
Eco-Friendly Cost of devices
Saves shelf space Subscription costs and circulation limitations
No lost or damaged titles Durability issues
Lower costs (sometimes) Compatibility issues
Instant delivery Licensing issues
Font resizing Archival issues
Enhanced book features Limited titles
Popularity Doesn't browse or feel like paper book


videoGo to Kindles at the Unquiet Library and explore how one library is using Kindles.
Watch the YouTube video Our First Student Checks Out a Kindle: Her Initial Thoughts On Reading on a Kindle to learn about one student's thoughts about checking out e-books.
Watch the following YouTube video titled A CVHS Student Shares Her Thoughts on the Kindle Reading Experience at The Unquiet Library to find out what a student thought about the e-book reading experience.

e-Book Formats

Electronic book formats are a major concern for librarians. Although the EPUB format is the most widely supported ebook format, there are other formats associated with specific platforms and many are not interchangable. For instance, Kindle does not support EPUB.

AZW. Kindle's proprietary .azw format is used on older Kindle ebook readers.

ePub. The .epub format is an open standard. It's the most popular vendor-independent XML-based ebook format. It runs on most systems including iOS devices, but not the Kindle. Adobe Digital Editions users epub.

iBook. Apple's .ibooks format is based on the epub standard. Books can be created using the free iBooks Author software. They can only be sold through Apple's online store.

KF8. Amazon Kindle's file .kf8 format is used on the Kindle Fire. It is also used on other Kindle platforms such as the Kindle iPad app.

PDF. Many of the ebook readers allow viewing of the .pdf format created by Adobe.

Digital Download Services

Regardless of the e-books you choose, it's important consider whether devices can talk to each other (e.g., Kindle, Nook, iPad)? What is the licensing arrangement for access to the books (e.g., who "owns" the books)? Do your patrons have access to one or multiple copies? Do the resources have unique Electronic Standard Book Numbers (ESBN) to help identify them?

Keep in mind that every book isn't available in the ebook format. Some authors, like Sherman Alexie refuse to sign for the digital rights to their work. Alexie's argument is that it would further limit access by those left behind in the digital divide. On the flip side, a publisher recently announced that print copies of early volumes of a moderately popular young adult series would no longer be warehoused in favor of only providing access in them in digital format even though the final book in the series has not yet been published.

School and public libraries are addressing the demands for ebooks in different ways. The biggest concerns involve selecting quality services, dealing with licenses, and facilitating circulation.

Read Stephens, Wendy (June 1, 2012). In a more digital direction: serving teens with e-readers. Young Adult Library Services, 10(4), 28-30. Available through IUPUI.

Selecting Quality Services

Options for ebook publishers and distributors have exploded over the past several years, so it's important to keep up-to-date on the options. In most cases, libraries work with a digital distributor like OverDrive, a host for the electronic content. How do you decide which vendor provides the best E-book service?

Keep in mind that some services such as Amazon and Oyster aren't designed with library lending in mind. It's important to investigate options that will work for your library setting.

Below is a list of some of the most popular ebook services for libraries:

Think about specialty services.

Also, consider ebook elements already part of you existing services. For instance the Gale Virtual Reference Library contains many full-text reference e-books such as the DK Eyewitness books. Gale's Testing & Education Reference Library contains ebooks from Peterson's and other publishers that can be opened in Adobe Reader. Cliff Notes are available from EBSCOhost e-Books.

Read SLJ's School eBook Market Directory from School Library Journal. Available through IUPUI.

As you think about what services to choose, consider the following factors.

Community. First and foremost, you need to consider the needs and interest of your community. What devices are they most likely to be using? What does the local school support?

Preference. One also needs to think about format preference when considering the needs of your community. Some youth prefer a separate device like a Kindle for reading, others would prefer to download books to their smartphone.

Infrastructure. Your community is ready for electronic resources, but do you have the technical infrastructure in place to support it? Some electronic resources can be purchased for in-house access at a lower rate than those with remote 24/7 access. Which would your users prefer? How complicated is the authentication process as it relates to library filters and/or a login process? If you go with one vendor, are the current hardware and software configurations compatible and capable? Do you go with a system of remote hosting or do you maintain local control? Will the electronic resources be accessible on a number of platforms?

Technical Issues. Consider functionality and reliability issues. Is the system intuitive and easily navigated and/or are help and tutorials offered?  Does the system integrate well with the existing library systems? Can you rely on the system to be available 24/7 with fast response times?

Support. Think about staff and user training and support. Are trials and product demonstrations available? Is technical support readily available for staff and users? Can you get statistical reports on user activities? If you are addressing specific resources, can you get bibliographic records such as MARC records?

Availability. On the supply side, what are the models available to you? Do you purchase, subscribe, pay-per-view, or rent the materials? This one is important if you want to be sure you have access to the item if you cancel. Can you get a deal on selected items or only on the big packages? What are the archiving rights if you terminate the agreement? Are there hidden maintenance fees? What does the small print say about cancellation rights?

Read Springen, Karen (September 1, 2013). It's complicated: how two schools are navigating the transition to ebooks. School Library Journal, 59(9), 30. Available through IUPUI.

Dealing with Licenses

Many publishers of electronic resources use a standard license model. Libraries are concerned with several parts of the license to include the following critical issues that libraries want to preserve:

There are also legal issues:

Other items that are of interest that should be included in the license

Licensing resources to link to:

Facilitating Circulation

Many library websites provide pages that guide users through the process of selecting and downloading eBooks.

Go to Montgomery County Public Library's E-Book page. Notice the many resources and options.

Read Bishop, Chanitra & Visser, Marijke (April 1, 2013). E-Books? So what's the big deal? Young Adult Library Services, 11(3), 4-8. Available through IUPUI.

Web-based eBooks

Many publishers and distributors make books available online. Other groups are working on ways to bring public domain books and other reading resources to online viewers. Google Books is known for scanning books and making them available for free or for purchase. Many books for youth are available as full text or previews. Do a search for "juvenile fiction" for lots of examples. Also do a search for a topic such as "juvenile motorcycle". You can even preview the book Hunger Games.

Scholastic has jumped into the online reading market.

Reading Rainbow was a popular television program. Now, the books are available through an app. The book contains some free books and additional books area available for a monthly subscription.


TumbleBook is a company with a collection of services including ebooks. This company is very popular with school and public libraries. They provide four services:

Read Guernsey, Lisa (2011). Are e-books any good? Do digital books help young kids learn to read or are they mostly fun and games?, School Library Journal, 57(6), 28-32. Available through IUPUI.

App-based eBooks

From classics like Alice in Wonderland to popular fiction like the Twilight series, e-books and book apps are hot. According to publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux, "we’ve reached the tipping point—the technology is in the school, the kids know how to use it.  It just makes sense."

Some e-books require a special app for mobile reading. For instance, you can download iBooks,KindleNook, and Google Books apps for the iPhone, iPodTouch, and iPad. These are also available for other devices. The images below are from iBooks using an iPhone.

ibookibook listWinnie the Pooh

Some publishers are creating their own apps for their books. For instance, the PlayTales app contains a number of child-friendly demo stories.

Storia from Scholastic is a free eReading App that can be run on Windows PC, iPad, Kindle Fire, and Android. The app is used to access both free and subscription-based ebook content. Hundreds of Scholastic fiction and nonfiction titles are available (see below). Many of the books have audio elements and enriched ebook options such as interactives and games.

Popular fiction for youth including the Harry Potter eBooks and Hunger Games eBooks are available.

Go to the Storia free section to download the Storia eReader and five free ebooks. Give it a try. Reflect on the ereading experience.


Books for Children

Miss SpiderWhile many new books are being published as apps or for e-book readers, a growing number of publishers are reimagining books in the digital format. For instance, HarperCollins apps include books like Goodnight Moon, Warrior Cats, Freight Train, and 123 Ants Go Marching. The Biscuit, Pete the Cat, Big Nate, Fancy Nancy, I Can Read, and Berenstain Bears collection,

Jack and the Beanstalk is an example of a Children's Interactive Storybook made for the iPad. It includes an interactive story along with games, activities, and other resources.

Miss Spider's Tea Party for the iPad is an interactive book that contains the classic picture book in addition to multi-touch animation, painting, puzzles, and games.

Ruckus Media Group has introduced a series of e-books beginning including the Curious George collection and A Present for Milo by Mike Austin. Giant Atom is another publishing group introducing ebooks such as Icarus Swinebuckle by Michael Garland.

Check out the Oceanhouse Media Apps where you'll find Dr. Suess, The Berenstain Bears, Little Critter, and more for the iPhone and iPad (shown below).

Go to the Little Critter page and explore samples of the Little Critter books.

Little Critter

Many publishers are exploring ways to use the power of the animation, audio, and video in books. These "enhanced" versions often contain animation, audio, video, or interactive elements such as background information, maps, or quiz questions.

The Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross from Moving Tales animates the illustrations.

Watch the movie trailer for The Pedlar Lady of Gusting Cross on YouTube.

There's a Map on My Lap by Dr. Seuss is a story about maps that children can have read to them or read themselves.


Many children enjoy reading The Magic School Bus series. Consider the interactive app versions. For instance in The Magic School Bus: Oceans, Ms. Frizzle and her students embark on an aquatic journey in this interactive storybook, which features science facts, pictures, games, and videos.


Scholastic has many other great book titles available in this interactive app format such as Clifford's BIG Birthday, I SPY Spooky Mansion, and Arthur Turns Green.

A growing number of books are connecting to movie components. There are also lots of Disney options like Toy Story Read-Along. Many book/movie combinations like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs have apps.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader is part of the C.S. Lewis series. The iBook contains illustrated interactive quiz questions, a color map, ship blue prints, and character information.

The How to Train Your Dragon interactive book and game is a great companion to the movie by the same name. FrogDog Media's iStoryTime series includes many interactive children's books based on popular animated movies. These books include movies, games, narration, and interaction.


fangBooks for Older Readers

Teens are drawn to apps for their smartphones and tablets.

Chopsticks is one of a growing number of novels for youth designed specifically as mobile apps. The novel includes interactive elements including audio, video, and images.

James Patterson's Maximum Ride series are all available as Kindle eBooks. In addition, supplemental materials are also available in various formats through the author's website. For instance, there's a FANG iPhone App connected to Book One.

Interactive books such as the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books are being introduced in an app format.


Read or listen to Choose Your Own Adventure Gets an iMakeover from NPR (August 16, 2010). Think about how the paper and app versions compare.

Poems by Heart from Penguin Classics is more than an ebook. It provides memorization games that challenge youth to learn classic poems by Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, and more (see below left).


Comics, graphic novels, and other illustrated books are gaining in popularity in an e-book environment. Because many of the newer e-book readers contain color, electronic devices are less expensive for publishing in the full-color format.

Graphic novels are increasingly available as mobile Apps. For instance, Twilight: The Graphic Novel (above right) and Beautiful Creatures are available through Hachette Book Group.

Read Moorefield-Lang, Heather & Gavigan, Karen (2012). These aren't your father's funny papers: the new world of digital graphics. Knowledge Quest, 40(3), 30-35. Available through IUPUI.

Some books are shared through apps created by publishers. For instance, DC Comics and Marvel Comics each have their own apps for downloading both free and fee-based comics (see images below). The popular manga publisher Viz Media also has an app available.

Comic 1Comic 1Comic 1

Some traditionally text-based books are being enhanced with graphics. For instance, an illustrated version of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells is available for the iPad.

War of the Worlds

For lots of examples, go to the App Store: Books.

Read Reading in an iPad Transmedia Universe by Annette Lamb. This series of pages asks librarians to think about the options and impact of digital reading.


As you select ebook apps, think about the end user. Will the content and interactive elements appeal to the intended audience?

When you think about quality children's books, the Caldecott award comes to mind. An increasing number of award-winning books are being turned into apps. For instance Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App by Mo Willem, Donald Crew's Freight Train, and the Olivia books are a few examples.

Read Jonker, Travis (2011). Into a digital world: a Q&A about digital picture books. Children & Libraries, 9(2), 58-59.

Scholastic's First Discovery series of apps including The Forest, Dinosaurs, and Ladybug. These apps are intended for young children and include simply vocabulary, appealing topics, and basic interaction. The interactive elements such as touching the leaves and finding the animals contributes to the nonfiction narrative.


Read Houston, Cynthia (2011). Digital books for digital natives. Children & Libraries, 9(3), 39-42.

It's Here

Alex and AnnetteRegardless of whether you love or hate electronic books, ebooks are here to stay. An entire generation is growing up with both book print and electronic books.

In the photo on the left taken in 2005, I'm reading to my nephew using the LittleTouch LeapPad designed for infants and toddlers. We're reading a book called Let's Get Busy, Baby. This talking book introduces first words and interactive play. Notice that he's wearing an ALA READ hat! At just eight months old, he seemed to enjoy the different voices used in the e-books.

At the age four, this same little boy continued to love his technology, but he still expected to read paper books before going to sleep (below left).

It's not a matter of technology being better or worse. It's the availability of options that makes technology wonderful. At six, Alex was teaching his younger sister how to read on the iPad (above right)

readingiPad kids

Alex has now been around for a decade. He continues to love to read. He usually reads on his Kindle. However he also reads on his iPhone and iPad... oh, and paper books too.

The Future of ePaper and eInk

Epaper from GyriconImagine a city without newspaper factories or magazine stands. When you sit down at the breakfast table, you simply press the UPDATE button on your morning paper. Yesterday's headlines dissolve and today's headlines appear. Possible or impossible?

Not just possible, it's here! Although not yet available everywhere, the technology currently exists. A wireless network can easily update the information on a page. The sign on the left is made of SmartPaper from Gyricon.

It's very similar to the technology already available in the Kindle, Nook, and other ebook readers.

eInkCurrent there are two competing technologies for electronic paper. One is produced at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a subsidiary of Xerox Corporation for a company called Gyricon and the other is developed by the MIT Media Lab for a company called eInk. The company E-ink is the developer of the Kindle. They have a wide range of e-ink display products.

Want to learn more? Follow the news at epapercentral.

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