It’s a fact: E-books are becoming more and more popular these days. Many of us dread the idea that one day our traditional physical books might become extinct (I particularly think this will not happen any time soon, not in our lifetime anyway, and most likely not in the couple next generations, hopefully). However, it is clear that e-readers are increasingly making their way into the hands of readers. I am a huge enthusiast of digital reading, I love how practical it is, especially when you want to read big, heavy books. Turning a page is as easy as a quick tap on the screen.
What does this mean for us librarians?
I’ve seen people talking about “readers’ advisory for e-books”. While researching for this article, I came across this post in Library Journal. The author and commenters raise good questions that we need to address when we think about e-books in libraries. I actually agree with the commenter who said RA is not about the medium, but rather the content itself. That means, it doesn’t really matter if the books is in print, audio or digital format, what we recommend to readers is the content, the work. It’s really up to the readers to decide what format is more appropriate for them.
Books are the brand of libraries. All formats of books. All. Formats. With the need of an intermediary technology on which to read the story, e-books present a fascinating area of advisory for librarians. We need to be able to be advisors of technology in addition to content.
Katie Dunneback, in E-Books and Readers’ Advisory (Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50-4, pp 325-329).
I’ve had many patrons come to me at the information desk asking about Library To Go (Overdrive) and our e-books in general. They usually ask me to help them set up the app on their devices and demonstrate how the digital borrowing works. Most of them are older patrons who have been recently introduced to e-readers and tablets. Come to think of it, it makes total sense that we get approached mostly by patrons who are not tech-savvy, as younger people are more used to technology and can figure out their devices on their own. These interactions have never been about book recommendations though, they are focused on “technology advisory” if we can give it such a name. When it comes to e-books, we’re using our instruction hats rather than recommending books.
So, I believe the main issue here is promoting our digital collection to patrons. How can we do it more effectively? I think many people don’t yet realize we have these resources available. Many libraries already promote events where they demonstrate how Overdrive works. That’s great! But I think there’s more we could do to make our digital collections more visible to patrons who are not yet used to technology.
Below are some ideas for e-book displays I found on Pinterest.
Printing book covers and adding QR codes for direct links in the catalogue. How simple and cleaver!
Another great idea I found in the Overdrive marketing resources is adding stickers in physical books indicating those are also available in digital format. Or creating shelf talkers, slips of paper with the information for the e-book.
Claire Moore, from Darien Library in Connecticut, has more ideas for promoting digital collections to patrons, especially young ones.
What’s your opinion? What do you think readers’ advisory for e-books means? And how can we do it?
Ana Calabresi is an Auxiliary Librarian at Burnaby Public Library and loves her Kindle!