Ereader Madness – Nook vs. Kindle for elementary schools

In the two years since I last posted, I hadn’t given this blog much thought.  This week, however, I really wanted to write and comment about the insanity that is ereaders and ebooks at this moment.  One can hardly read a single library-related blog without being confronted by “ebook issues.”  For many librarians, this drastic shift from print to print-and-electronic, and perhaps eventually all-electronic materials is fraught with drama, frustration, excitement, and a large dose of crazy.

Many, many librarians and teachers have written about the pros, cons, and concerns they have with our professional values and the current ebook models.  That’s all well and good, and we NEED those voices in the ebook discussion.  My point in writing today, though, is that all of those discussions aren’t always helpful for actually making ebook/ereader decisions for your library.

I’ve been seeking practical advice and best practices for how to implement ereaders in an elementary library.  Frankly, I’ve come up short.  Very few elementary school libraries seem to be doing this.  And while much of the blog articles and shared policies for high school and middle school libraries is certainly transferable to elementary schools, some of it is not.

Thanks to generous donations from our parent association, I’ve been toying with the idea of buying ereaders for a few months now.  But the GIANT question remains: Which ereader should I invest our library donation dollars in?

I’m torn between the Kindle and Nook.  Yes, I realize there are many other decent ereaders, but I’m looking for sustainability.  And these two seem to be the most likely to stick around a few years. The following are my biggest pros and concerns for each.

The Nook
Pros –

  • Touchscreens are easier to clean (because elementary students aren’t nearly as hygienic as secondary students, IMO) and no keys for some intrepid student to pop off.
  • Support in bookstores (because face-to-face communication almost always trumps online/phone support in terms of customer service).
  • ePub format – generally accepted standard among ebooks, somewhat more open than Amazon’s proprietary AZ file format.

Concerns –

  • Social features (LendMe, Nook Friends, sharing to social networks, etc.) cannot be disabled according to the online support (MAJOR safety concern).  They don’t work with Wi-fi turned off, but the ability is still there.  I will have no control if a student wants to “friend” someone through this function.  Sort-of solution: Students/parents sign a contract to keep wi-fi off.
  • requires a credit card on file, which I’m working though with the finance department of my district.  Possible solutions: pre-paid credit card or gift cards?

The Kindle
Pros –

  • No social networking (and thus, a safer tool for students)
  • Allows you to read the first chapter for free (which would be great for previewing books and for student suggestions)
  • Integrated mp3 player for audiobooks/music
  • Read-to-me feature reads books aloud (albeit in a computer voice)

Cons –

  • Keyboard keys are bound to get popped off by some intrepid student, also harder to clean
  • Storage space isn’t expandable
  • Proprietary format (which goes against my librarian-belief in “free access”)

In the end, I’m 90% sure I’m going to decide on Nooks.  The main reason being, I’d rather handle the management issues of sharing than the more likely issues of hardware damage.  And real people as customer support goes a long way with me.  With that said, should get to work on that read-aloud or audiobook feature and add a 3mm audio jack.  It may not be an essential right now, but for K-12 schools that struggle to provide access for those with disabilities, that feature would be invaluable.

Do you disagree?  Tell me why in the comments if you like.

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Mrs. J in the Library

Collette J., or Mrs. J in the Library, is a full-time elementary teacher-librarian, blogger, and mama from Pennsylvania. She loves technology, books in any format, makerspaces, and all things Harry Potter. The information and opinions represented here are her own and are not the views and opinions of any business or organization.

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2 Responses

  1. Collette J. says:

    Another great link summarizing the concerns public and school librarians have with the Kindle/Overdrive deal –

  1. September 24, 2011

    […] are even some places that are considering eReaders in school – for elementary students. Whether it’s more cost-effective or not, in my opinion, it’s the wrong path. After […]