We are nearly four months into our Kindle circulation program here at The Unquiet Library, and I’m delighted to report that so far, the program is a success.  At this time, we are circulating 10 Kindle devices and have purchased and/or been gifted 120 eBook titles.  I’d like to briefly share what is working well, challenges we’ve encountered, and some commonly asked FAQs I receive from librarians and teachers.

What Is Working Well/What Students Like/Celebrations

  • With the exception of one student (who identified herself as a non-reader and who tried the Kindle at her mother’s urging), every participant in the Kindle program has expressed extreme satisfaction with the Kindle reading experience.
  • Students are thrilled that we purchase the books they want; the personalized reading experience is very important to our readers.
  • Students like they can make adjustments to the page views/font size while reading.
  • Students like the convenience and ease of reading on the Kindle.
  • Students have been consistent and diligent in returning the Kindles on time within the one week circulation period.
  • Most students have requested to use the Kindle again.

Hiccups/Challenges/Suggestions from Students

  • We have discovered we need to keep the wireless turned off on the Kindles even when they are not in use because the battery drains rapidly trying to either find the 3G signal or to connect to the wireless network.
  • Students all indicated they wished the Kindle was backlit and/or for us to purchase reading lights for nighttime reading.
  • A few students have had difficulty remembering to return all Kindle accessories (power supply, cables); most return the missing item(s) within a day.   Now that we have identified the source of the battery drain issue, we are now circulating the Kindles without the power supply unless the student specifically requests.
  • Students would like a loan period longer than one week; as we acquire more eReader devices, we plan to extend the loan period to two weeks in 2011-12.

FAQs from Librarians and Teachers

1. For each Kindle eBook you purchase from Amazon, how many devices may you load the eBook?
Six (6)

2. If you want to buy more than one copy of a Kindle eBook, how do you go about doing so?
At this time, we purchase books based on student requests and for each book we buy, we load them on one of the two sets of Kindles (1-6 or 7-10); we approach loading the ebooks in this manner for ease of record-keeping and distributing the books electronically to the Kindles.  We have not had a situation in which we needed more than one copy of a book; however, you would need an additional account(s) attached to unique emails to do so.

3.  What titles are students requesting?

While most requests have been contemporary YA and adult fiction, we have had requests for nonfiction as well as classic literature or nonfiction students are reading for academic courses.   Students can request up to 10 titles at a time; we provide them a book/author request form when they get our acceptable use form (available for you to use and adapt as needed on our Kindle Guide).

4.  Why did you choose to start with Kindle?

Simply, this was the format I had used the most and felt most comfortable with as an affordable entry point into the eBook/eReader market.  We do plan to add Nooks; we are also exploring options for eBook delivery to non-Kindle devices from other vendors although at this time, I’ve not found a service that meets the reading needs of our users and/or received sufficient information.

5.  How are you cataloging your Kindle eBooks?

The process of dealing with the eBooks had been a process of trial and error.  In a nutshell, we are not cataloging the Kindle eBooks at this time through the Destiny OPAC for two reasons.  One wrinkle is that we do not have rights to edit MARC records, which means we can’t update which books are loaded on individual Kindle eReaders.  Secondly, we found that when we did catalog the Kindle eBooks, it was somewhat confusing for patrons as well as us, the library staff, to distinguish which copy (print or Kindle edition) was available at first glance, particularly when trying to place a hold for a student because we do not actually check out the Kindle eBooks through Destiny.

6.  How do you purchase your Kindles and eBooks? What methods of payment do you use?

We set up a corporate account with Amazon to purchase the Kindle devices themselves with purchase orders; instructions and information on this process are available here.  It took about 1-2 weeks after we had submitted our application online for us to hear back from Amazon by phone to get the approval for our corporate account. You can register as many Kindle devices to your Amazon account as you like.

We do not have a school credit card or purchasing card; we use gift cards for purchasing the eBooks.  We have been using AMEX gift cards, but we just discovered our local CVS carries Amazon gift cards, so we plan to explore that method of payment.

7.  Can you purchase ebooks for the Kindle from someone other than Amazon at this time?

Legally, no.

8.   Is there a way to “lock” the Kindle account so that students cannot purchase books or download items?

At this time and to my knowledge, no; there is no password protect option at this time.  Only if you deregistered the device from your account would it become completely separated from your Kindle account information; by doing this, though, you’d have to reregister to deliver more content to the device.  We build into our AU policy that students will not download any books, period—we feel the personalized reading requests have helped us support this policy.

9.  What covers do you recommend?

We initially purchased this model from Amazon (which is currently out of stock); initially, we thought the cover was to blame for some freezing students were experiencing because other customers had reported freezing issues seemingly related to the covers; however, we have not had any freezing reported in the last month, so we now think perhaps those errors may have been user related or possibly related to the Kindle searching for wireless connectivity.

We are now looking at covers from a variety of vendors that include the reading lights.

10.  Any other advice you would offer?

I think this post from Bertha Gutsche at ALA Learning offers some excellent advice for anyone considering implementing eBooks or eReaders into your collection.   I also recommend trying out the devices you’re thinking of circulating—take some time to go to your local store and play with them and test the features firsthand—some hands-on experience will give you a much better context for conceptualizing how your learners/patrons might use the device and how/where the devices fit into your library collection/program as an access point for learning.

Other Suggested Readings/Resources: