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the Transition to Ebooks
Do you want to buy your ebooks outright, or lease them? What kinds of discounts are available? Can students download e-content onto their personal devices or read offline?
This guide is intended to help librarians choose the vendors that are right for their schools. [This guide was updated on September 6 to correct an error in the entry for Rosen Publishing; on September 9 to add an entry from EBSCO; and on September 25 to correct an error in the entry for MackinVIA.]
ABC-CLIO features more than 7,600 reference, educational, and professional development ebooks focused on the high school and college market. The company offers a proprietary ebook platform with delivery partners that include Follett, Gale’s Virtual Reference Library, and Amazon Kindle. K–12 ebook imprints include Greenwood, ABC-CLIO, Libraries Unlimited, and Linworth. ABC-CLIO frontlist ebooks—300 new titles per year—are usually available before the print publication dates.
The content’s perpetual license allows unlimited simultaneous access, and students can read at school or at home using any wired device. The platform enables students to create personal bookshelves, print and share bookmarks in various formats, and generate links to titles and chapters. Content is not downloadable. New directions this year include ebook-only titles and interactive ebooks. Pricing is based on the number of students at a school.
Abdo Digital offers more than 4,000 Abdo Publishing Company and Magic Wagon PreS–8 fiction and PreS–12 nonfiction titles, including more than 150 Marvel Age graphic novels. The eBoost multimedia line includes more than 250 titles with interactive features such as videos, web links, and Twitter and RSS feeds. An ebook line with “Read to Me” audio options debuts this fall.
Most ebooks are available for unlimited simultaneous use, with many individual titles priced from $30–$50. Curated collections of titles range from $100 to $500-plus, based on licensing terms that offer downloadable PDFs or hosted, multi-user solutions. The majority of ebooks are available under a perpetual license, except downloadable interactive titles and eBoost multimedia titles, whose licenses expire after five years.
With no hosting fees, Abdo offers 30 percent off list price for some titles and packages. All ebooks can be accessed with PC or Mac desktops, laptops, or tablets with an Adobe Flash-enabled browser. Content with a copyright date from 2010 on works with iPads, iPhones, and other Apple devices.
Axis 360, from Baker & Taylor, features more than 500,000 ebook and audiobook titles for PreS–12 to adult. Axis 360 works with a variety of free ereading applications including its own dedicated axisReader, Bluefire, Adobe Digital Editions, and the Blio ereader, which includes a full suite of features for the visually impaired. Blio also offers reader tools including text-to-speech, note taking and highlighting, and searching within and linking to online reference websites. Digital audiobooks work with the Acoustik app on iOS and Android devices.
Baker & Taylor’s annual fees are based on school or district size. Pricing and licensing terms vary by publisher, though most content is available with a one-ebook, one-user model. Baker & Taylor will offer multi-user licensing options from a range of participating publishers this fall.
Most ebooks are available via perpetual licenses. Some publishers, including HarperCollins, offer limited-ownership licenses, expiring after 26 checkouts. Content can be downloaded for offline reading.
Usable devices include Mac and PC desktops and laptops, Apple iOS and Android tablets and smartphones, and e-readers such as the Nook, Kindle Fire, Sony Reader, and Kobo.
Barnes and Noble’s (B&N) three million-plus ebooks are supported solely on the company’s many Nook devices, including the Nook HD/HD+ for kids. Offerings include a vast collection of children’s interactive picture books, comics, and graphic novels. EPib files, the company’s term for many full-color kids’ titles, are supported on Nook HD/HD+.
Nook titles are available for purchase only; any discounts are set by publishers. Ebooks bought by schools can’t be loaned on students’ personal devices. Nook devices are compatible with OverDrive and the 3M Cloud Library.
The Nook HD/HD+ offer many interactive features, including the company’s “Read to Me,” “Read and Record,” and “Read and Play” formats. These devices also support apps focused on popular characters and series such as Dr. Seuss. Nook book titles in ePub format feature bookmarking, note-taking, highlighting, and word look-up capabilities.
Ebooks can be accessed offline, but can’t be printed.
Big Universe provides a cloud-based ebook library for K–8 students. The collection includes 3,000 titles—60 percent nonfiction—from 30 publishers, adding 5,000 more selections in the near future. Big Universe offers book lists in special categories such as character education and bilingual books.
Using an annual leasing subscription ($1,999 per school building), librarians and teachers can access Big Universe’s website from multiple devices—laptops and desktops, iPads and Androids, and interactive whiteboards. Volume discounts are available for school districts; multiyear discounts are also an option. Books don’t expire and can be used simultaneously. Users cannot download titles on their own.
Special features include a DIY writing and publishing tool for students; bookmarking; and a thumbnail viewer. Many read-aloud titles have video and audio. An annotation feature will be added this fall.
This web-based service for schools features 5,000-plus ebooks from more than 20 publishers, adding 200 to 300 new titles every month. With 55 percent nonfiction, Brain Hive’s collection is geared toward K–12.
Free membership allows schools unlimited ebook access, paying one dollar per checkout. Discounts can be arranged for consortium and statewide purchasing.
The platform and ebooks can be accessed on any Internet-enabled device in or out of school. When viewed via web browser, ebooks, requiring user log-in and authentication for access, aren’t downloadable, but a free iPad app enables downloading for offline viewing. Access to titles expires after a period set by individual schools: Three, seven, or 14 days. Schools may buy multiuser access versions of high-volume titles.
Though Brain Hive doesn’t offer interactive books, citation support and note-taking features are available, along with highlighting and bookmarking.
The Britannica ebook collection, developed by editors at Encyclopaedia Britannica, consists of 800-plus non-fiction curriculum-aligned titles, many illustrated in color, designed for classroom work, research, study, projects, etc. The collection covers PreS-12, with more than 50 new titles forthcoming in early 2014. There’s an emphasis on STEM-related topics, though the offerings cover the arts, geography, history, language arts, math, religion, science, social studies, and sports. The collection includes 50 bilingual titles and many specialized collections, from the Britannica Discovery Library (12 titles for PreS-3) to The Britannica Guide to the World’s Most Influential People (eight titles for grades 9 and up).
Britannica’s free E-Stax platform allows users to access titles 24/7 from any Internet-connected computer or tablet, either online or via download to their device. The platform also provides free MARC records, citations, social/sharing options, and the ability to take notes, bookmark, highlight, and save. A read-aloud option is also in the works.
Ebooks are for sale only, in PDF format, and can be read on most devices, downloaded offline, and printed out. For the first single school, single-user title, the price is the same as the print price. Unlimited use books are twice the price of the printed book. Discounts start at three buildings, and district-wide discounts are deeper.
The first 15 pages of every Britannica ebook are available online free for browsing. Members of the Read with Rigor Ebook Club receive perks including 10% off Britannica’s e-books; free professional development webinars; suggested activity ideas for school and home; and previews of upcoming releases.
Capstone’s 3,000 titles for PreS–9 all include professional audio. The collection contains a balance of about one-third fiction and two-thirds nonfiction titles supporting the Common Core State Standards. Recent e-additions include the “DC Super-Pets” comics series; favorite series include “Katie Woo” and “Graphic Science.”
Capstone titles are accessible via any PC, Mac, iPad, interactive whiteboards, and other devices, in school or off site. The ebooks are also compatible with library automation systems; users can search and play them using MARC records. Capstone titles offer full-color illustrations and text highlighting.
Full-access perpetual licenses are offered on a per-building basis, with unlimited simultaneous usage to kids who use a shared building login ID, both at school and off-site.
Pricing is a one-time fee of $24.99–$36.99 per title, with no expiration date and discounts for district purchases. Offline downloading options are planned for 2014. Subscriptions are available for libraries preferring lower up-front costs. Capstone titles are DRM free.
Last year, EBSCO added 23,000 ebooks for children and YA to its collection of more than 460,000 ebook titles. The company also announced separate K-8 and high school subscription collections, both compiled with Common Core standards in mind.
EBSCO’s K-8 collection of 7,000-plus titles features subject areas including science and technology (31.5 percent), language and literature/fiction (22 percent), history (12 percent), geography and recreation (9 percent), and education (6 percent). The high school collection contains nearly 6,500 titles in language and literature/fiction (33 percent), history (15 percent), science and technology (10 percent), and education (7.6 percent). In addition, many high schools subscribe to EBSCO’s ebook academic collection, with nearly 120,000 titles.
All titles can be downloaded and accessed anywhere with devices including computers, laptops, iPads, iPhones and other Apple iOS devices; Nooks, Sony eReader Touch edition devices; and mobile devices using apps including Bluefire Reader, Aldiko, or Txtr, for Android and iOS.
Pricing varies by school and district. All titles are available for unlimited simultaneous use. In addition to the subscription collections—offered as an annual, renewable license—unlimited perpetual licenses are available for all titles.
An educational publisher for more than 140 years, Follett offers some 200,000 ebook titles, mostly nonfiction. Follett ebooks currently use a prepetual license model, with no leasing available. A recent partnership with Random House and Hachette Book Group bolstered its existing relationships with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Scholastic, and numerous other publishers.
Follett Enlight, the company’s K–12-geared reading environment, allows for cloud reading on most devices. Follett content is accessible on desktops/laptops, tablets, smartphones, the iPod touch and iPhones; the Nook HD and HD+ via Google Play; and Kindle Fire. Titles can be downloaded offline with some devices.
Sixty-seven percent of PreS–12 schools using ebooks purchase from Follett, according to a recent Library Journal survey. Special features from Follett include note-taking capabilities in all titles and highlighting options in most, along with a tool allowing teachers and students to write and share notes. Additional Follett tools aim to support close reading and Common Core State Standards goals and offer scaffolding structures for struggling readers. Printing, copying and pasting, and text-to-speech features depend on publishers’ DRM specifications.
The Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) is Gale’s platform for delivering ebook reference content and series nonfiction to school, academic, and public libraries via a purchase model. GVRL ebooks are unlimited simultaneous use purchases, and libraries own the ebooks indefinitely.
GVRL supports the Common Core State Standards with titles for upper elementary, middle, and high school grade levels. In addition to 4,000 Gale titles, GVRL also offers 8,000 third-party titles from more than 80 publishers for a total offering of more than 12,000 works, including nearly 200 new Encyclopaedia Britannica titles. Its PreS–12 collection ranges from illustrated children’s reference content from Dorling Kindersley and Encyclopaedia Britannica to the timely Greenhaven series “Opposing Viewpoints” and “At Issue” (covering hot topics like school bullying and organic food) to additional imprints like Rourke and Marshall Cavendish. K–12 educators can also learn from ISTE and ASCD professional development titles.
In 2012, GVRL was voted “Best Overall Database” by Library Journal readers.
GVRL’s user-friendly features include an interface available in more than 30 languages, ReadSpeaker (text-to-speech functionality) for multiple languages, article translation capability, a multipage viewer for a booklike experience, and the ability to download articles to be read offline as PDFs to all major ereaders, Android/iOS tablets, or MP3 players. Gale also offers promotional help for customers, including widgets, MARC records, and other tools. Via Gale’s PowerSearch platform, GVRL is cross-searchable with other Gale K–12 resources such as the In Context and InfoTrac products.
GVRL reps provide pricing based on the size of the institution or population served in a purchase model format. Individual prices range across titles and publishers. Bundle prices are also offered for certain sets of titles.Libraries can purchase single or multiple titles; no minimum purchase is required. The company now offers a Usage-Driven Acquisition (UDA) model for its Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) e-book platform, allowing libraries to purchase e-books based on actual usage and to perform evidence-based collection development.
Infobase Learning’s growing collection features 3,600-plus nonfiction titles for middle, high school, and academic levels. Subjects range from history to biographies, literature, multicultural studies, science and technology, and more.
Publishers include Facts On File, Chelsea House, Ferguson’s, and Bloom’s, among others. Individual ebooks and ebook collections offer unlimited, simultaneous use. Other features: Correlations to Common Core, state, and national standards; a new ebook support center, and free downloadable MARC records.
Ebooks can be used anywhere on personal devices and computers and are DRM free. The collection is being converted to ePub; new titles will be in that format. Those not yet converted are in PDF or HTML.
Interactive features: Searching across and by titles, description, or full text; citations; dictionary; notes; bookmarks; saving pages and limited printing; and copying and pasting. Also: Adjustable text size; ebook search widgets; and Google Translate and Read Aloud for many titles.
Individual titles and subject collections can be purchased; collections by market are by subscription. Purchased ebooks can be downloaded offline, but not subscription collections.
Individual ebook pricing for single schools match print list prices. Pricing for districts and academic institutions is by FTE—or for public libraries, cardholder volume.
Collections for purchase are up to 75 percent off off list price for the component ebooks. Subscription collections are heavily discounted and priced by FTE and cardholders. Special pricing for district-wide or large purchases.
All ebooks offer 24/7 remote access. Purchased ebooks grant perpetual access. Subscription collections are available for the subscription term, with unlimited, simultaneous use.
Serving the public and academic library markets, Ingram’s MyiLibrary offers more than 400,000 fiction and nonfiction ebooks, with titles for lower elementary through high school, including picture books and graphic novels.
Content can be accessed via e-readers, tablets, computers, and smartphones. Downloads are available via Adobe Digital Editions with most e-readers. Students can annotate e-titles and print out up to 10 percent of a book. No titles are interactive.
Ingram handles pricing on a one-off basis with institutions. Most titles are purchased in perpetuity and are subject to an annual platform fee. MyiLibrary also offers a short-term loan model, handled through OCLC’s WorldCat and providing a nine-day loan to member libraries.
Titles are available for single or multi-user concurrent licensing. An optional “Access Model” provides a finite number of yearly credits that aren’t subject to concurrency. A book may expire when the credits are exhausted. However, the credits refresh annually at no additional cost. Other MyiLibrary titles aren’t subject to expirations.
Lerner Digital offers 3,000-plus ebooks—roughly two-thirds nonfiction—in all K–12 subject areas, with a particular focus on science and social studies and grades K–5. The 289 Lerner Interactive Books aim to enhance literacy skills in struggling readers.
Lerner ebooks are available in PDF, mobi, and ePub formats for use on the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Sony ereaders, online, and on the iPad. Interactive titles can be used online or on the iPad. Students can highlight text, bookmark, and make notes, but cannot print.
Lerner’s ebooks are available via perpetual license only, with single-user and multi-access pricing options for use within a single school building. Interactive books, also for purchase only, are sold on a multi-user basis. Volume discount pricing is available for multi-building and district sales; pricing varies based on volume.
The web-based products require account log-in and authentication. Products cannot be downloaded offline, unless using the free Lerner Digital iPad® app.
This free portal facilitates access and management of PreK-12 ebooks, databases, and other digital content purchased through Mackin Educational Resources as well as some other publishers. MackinVIA offers nearly 200,000 nonfiction, fiction, popular fiction, and interactive ebook and database titles. Pricing and licensing terms vary by publisher and resource; but perpetual licenses for many titles are $30 to $50. While most content allows unlimited simultaneous use, some stipulate a one-ebook, one-user model. TumbleBooks and some other publishers require annual subscriptions. MackinVIA’s main appeal is that it presents a single interface for searching and accessing digital content purchased from a variety of publishers and database providers. Content can be downloaded for offline reading on multiple devices. The “My Backpack” feature lets students collect titles in one place. Teachers and librarians can also make custom lists of ebooks and databases.
A new suite of nine free proprietary ereader apps for Apple and Android devices include various features, from bookmarking, highlighting and note taking to an integrated dictionary, text-to-speech functionality, EasyBib citations, and linking to Accelerated Reader quizzes.
OverDrive is the largest provider of ebooks for libraries. The million-plus offerings include some 350,000 titles for PreS–12, in categories such as YA and narrative nonfiction, reference nonfiction, literature, and classroom reads, supplemental curriculum materials, reference and study guides, test prep, foreign language learning, and professional development titles. OverDrive is the exclusive supplier of Harry Potter ebooks and audiobooks in seven languages and also carries interactive titles from Disney Digital Books.
Annual platform and hosting fees are based on school enrollment, and pricing and licensing terms vary by publisher and resource. Most ebooks feature a one-book, one-user model, though many publishers offer simultaneous-use plans. Several also have perpetual licenses, while other vendors’ licenses expire after a number of checkouts or a period of time.
OverDrive’s apps enable readers to share what they’re reading via Facebook, Twitter, or email, as well as take notes, highlight and bookmark passages, and access a built-in dictionary.
Patrons can open and read ebooks with any device with a browser, and free apps allow ebook downloading on any Android or Apple iOS device. An arrangement with Amazon also allows many titles to be downloaded to Kindles.
Rosen offers more than 6,000 web-hosted, curriculum-based nonfiction and graphic ebooks. The collection also includes more than 300 interactive ebooks with extra content including videos and instructional activities, along with tools that guide students in creating their own digital projects. The interactive books, targeted at K–6 students and priced at $34.95 each or $209.70 for six, cover subjects from ancient civilizations to bullying and cyber safety.
Rosen’s web-hosted ebooks are sold under a perpetual license allowing unlimited simultaneous use at school or off-site, with any wired device. [EDIT: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Rosen ebooks could be used on only three devices at once]. Ebooks purchased directly from Rosen are hosted by epointbooks.com, allowing simultaneous searching of a library’s digital resources from Rosen, Cavendish Square, Britannica, Gareth Stevens, and Windmill books. This service is free if libraries purchase at least one new ebook title annually.
All of Rourke’s nearly 2,000 titles in English and Spanish are available in PDF ebook format. The 300-plus fiction titles and nearly 1,700 nonfiction K–8 titles focus on science, social studies, math, and high-interest books for striving readers.
The company offers one-time purchases for book usage in a single building. Ebook titles are available on all desktops, laptops, and mobile media devices and can be downloaded offline. Interactive features include word-for-word highlighting, phrase boundaries, and pop-up fact boxes. The books are designed to improve students’ vocabulary and fluency.
While pricing tends to occur on a proposal basis, all Rourke Educational Media content is purchased without subscriptions, renewals, or seat licensing. Pricing depends on the number of schools and students using the materials. All books are available for simultaneous use and do not expire.
Scholastic’s free ereading app Storia launched last year with 2,500 preschool to young adult titles emphasizing classics and nonfiction from the publisher’s imprints. Scholastic has since added hundreds of titles from its catalog and has announced partnerships with publishers such as National Geographic Kids and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Most ebook titles are less than $10 each, and classroom ebook collections are available in packs of 20 or 50, ranging from $99 to $249.
Ebooks have a perpetual license under a one-book, one-user model, though Storia includes features for classroom use and guided reading groups. Each Storia account can be used on up to 40 different devices at once, including students’ devices. The app is available for PC desktops and laptops, iPads, Kindle Fire, Android tablets, and most interactive whiteboards. A Mac app is pending.
eSebco offers more than 15,000 ebooks and 500 interactive ebooks from dozens of different imprints that target PreS through young adult readers. Many of the ebooks offered by eSebco are available via one-year licenses (generally priced at $11), but libraries can also choose to buy perpetual licenses for all of this content, usually priced between $20 and $30 per title. Regardless of which license is selected, all content is available for unlimited simultaneous use after purchase. Ordering, downloading, and importing titles to a library’s ILS is managed by eSebco’s proprietary platform and delivery system, which prevents the ordering of duplicate copies.
Titles can be accessed on PC and Mac desktops and laptops, and eSebco offers a suite of free apps customized for Apple and Android phones and tablets, as well as Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices.
The launch collection for recent start-up StarWalk Kids Media included more than 140 fiction and nonfiction titles, soon growing to 400. Notable authors include StarWalk Kids co-founder and award-winning children’s science writer Seymour Simon and Newbery Honor author Kathryn Lasky.
All ebooks are streaming media and can be accessed anywhere using PC and Mac computers, laptops, tablets, interactive whiteboards, and other devices. Several use Adobe Flash, requiring a free plugin; another free app is needed to read on iPads. Interactive features include read-aloud capabilities, word highlighting, sticky notes, and cut and paste.
Subscriptions begin at $595 per year per school. There are no platform fees, though the collection is also distributed by OverDrive and the 3M Cloud Library. All titles have unlimited simultaneous use.
The TumbleBookLibrary Deluxe Collection offers 300 interactive picture books, 200 iPad-compatible ebooks, 23 read-along chapter books, 160 TumbleGames, 50 nonfiction ebooks, 50 videos and quizzes, and teacher resources primarily for PreS–6 readers.
Annual subscriptions are $499 per school. A “Read-Along and Graphic Novel Add-on Bundle,” with 60 books for advanced readers, is $99 annually.
The company provides discounts of 20 percent off for a two-year subscription and 30 percent off for three years or more. TumbleBooks will negotiate up to 50 percent off for district-wide purchases.
All content can be used on Mac and PC desktops, laptops, and netbooks, and 200 ebooks are compatible with iPads. Titles can be accessed at school or off-site under an unlimited simultaneous use model. Using an app, some titles can be downloaded for offline reading.
For schools with limited Internet connectivity or Internet restrictions, TumbleBooks offers TumbleBooksUNPLUGGED, with about 150 interactive ebooks and games on a flash drive.
Matt Enis is associate editor of technology for Library Journal.
Sarah Bayliss contributes frequently to SLJ.