I’m a librarian at a middle / high school in a small town and serve students in grades 7-12. The library owns 20 Nooks with pre-loaded titles and we are a Commonwealth E-Book Collection library. (Disclaimer: I’m on the steering committee for the collection and also part of the collection development group, purchasing the teen e-books and audiobooks, so obviously I think the collection is pretty nifty and worth marketing.)
When we joined the Commonwealth Collection the first thing I did was put a link on my website and posted notices on the Library Facebook page. Now, because I’m a librarian and that’s what we do, I Googled “marketing e-books.” I found a library with a cool sign exploring the concept that the “Library” extends far beyond the four fixed walls. I also found libraries that place stickers on covers of physical books proclaiming “Now in eBook Format!” (However these people obviously don’t work in a school and have far too much time on their hands.) Something I did do, mentioned in articles, was put a bright yellow card on the book shelf where the Fault in Our Stars should have been shelved that said
“Physical book checked out?” Borrow one of our Nooks with Fault in Our Stars already loaded!”
Kids that said they normally didn’t like e-readers borrowed the book just to get it quickly. Word got around that we did have copies of the book. Student “word of mouth” is important in marketing any kind of book. Students who read our e-books often tell their friends about the collection. Derek, one of our high school juniors, was reading a sample chapter of American Sniper and wanted the rest of it. I told him I would include it in my current book order which would take about two weeks. He said thanks but didn’t seem enthusiastic. Derek started to walk away when I remembered the Commonwealth eBook Collection! Ten minutes later, he was happily reading chapter two of the book. A couple of days later another student came to me asking for a “phone book,” and he was not looking for the yellow pages. My students like instant gratification. E-books are good for that. Like marketing anything I think you need to find the value in a product and then communicate it to the customer. Lately I’ve been trying to pitch the idea that student borrowing is private.
Another advantage of e-books I stress is that they don’t require heavy lifting. Backpacks are already too full. E-books are also great for travel. My first big “marketing campaign” came right before the school trips to France and Spain. I made arrangements to visit the World Language classes and pitched the collection. A few students came after school to get help downloading the apps. I suggested tour guides as well as pleasure reading for airplanes and airports.
My marketing campaign also targeted the teachers as potential users of the collection. They are the people who create the assignments and drive the students to e-books for school use. I presented a brief intro one afternoon during our professional development time. I pointed out to the teachers that students can simultaneously use the BiblioBoard component of the eBook collection. Our brand new class, “History of Espionage and Spying” doesn’t have a textbook, so it was convenient that every student in the class could access the History of Espionage: Spycraft Through the Ages collection at the same time for their research.
Marketing e-books in this respect is very similar to marketing a print collection. Find out what the class is doing and provide resources. Last spring I worked with a social studies teacher creating a bias unit using biographical graphic novels of political commentators. The class had a smackdown between Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. Co-teaching helps push circulation stats because when I create the assignments I require students to use the e-books. During the month I taught the Victorian Era, one of the widely circulated books in the state was Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, part of my Biblioboard curated collection.
To “sell” my print collection I create booklists. I do the same thing with my e-book collection. The Baker and Taylor Axis 360 collection allows libraries to create staff picks so I created one for the seventh grade Science Body project. I emailed a link to the teachers and also put a link to the list with a jpeg I created from a screenshot onto our Facebook page and magically those books circulated!
My library also has student created promotional material. Last year I decided to let my 8th grade Information Literacy students market the collection for me by creating videos, screencasts and handouts. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1af_E-tUvFEgl2jMN7lVHjlm4CzxhNF8l5MV7gNbq6CA/edit?usp=sharing
Their creations are of varying quality but the goal of the unit really is to expose the students to the idea that we have e-books. To be honest, I don’t really care if students read a print book or an e-book; I just care that they are reading! (Although e-books are MUCH easier to shelve!)
For More Information:
Patricia London is the Library Director at the Avon Middle-High School