Over the bridge and far away

Ah, the Dartford crossing in the grip of autumn fog after a day out at the Essex Schools Library services. It was (I hope, as I haven’t seen the feedback forms yet) a rather successful workshop on eBook provision in schools and, I think, a sign that the eBook pilot is ready to evolve again.

Interestingly a rep from Micro Librarian Systems/ Overdrive eBooks had an hour’s slot in which she stated that Overdrive would likely welcome the idea of a schools library services-based consortium working with a group of schools. This follows on from a very interesting telephone conversation that I had with management at the Peters/ Wheelers eBook platform, who stated that they too would allow a schools library service to buy and manage the loans of ebooks to subscribers. Apparently only a few months ago they were not considering this, but I can imagine why they’ve changed their minds.

For a start eBooks are a costly and risky investment, especially with a provider that charges for network administration and distribution as well as the books. Should a school lose it’s funding for an eBook platform then it risks forfeiting all previous investment as the provider closes access to its servers. A slow start to borrowing by pupils who are getting used to this new method of reading could be perceived as eBooks not being popular – evidenced by the fact that MLS actually provide free publicity material to schools to raise awareness with their pupils, knowing that a strong start to borrowing may guarantee that the school continues their subscription.

Having a library split the cost of a consortium of schools to a manageable amount is a far safer means for unsure parties to dabble in eBooks and 3rd party lenders must realise that 5 schools subscribing at a discount through a SLS is better than 5 schools umming and ahhing until something better comes along. I’m fairly sure that Tower Hamlets will be ready to offer this in next year’s SLA. Here’s hoping…