Friday, 6 May 2011

Keeping the school community informed

This is a brief overview of the world of ebooks published as the Academic Focus article in our Head Master's Bulletin, a weekly newsletter.

What's happening to books?
This question concerns many as they see the gradual closure of bookstores and the reduction in the numbers of print titles on library shelves across the country. Be reassured, books are alive and flourishing in many different formats in our school.

In our library we have an excellent mix of good quality reading material for curriculum purposes and for recreational reading. Some of these books and magazines are in traditional paper format but increasingly many are electronic files, ebooks and audio books across the range of fiction and non-fiction.

A wide variety of ebook formats are available on the market. With the ubiquitous spread of mobile platforms, many students are now able to access books on their portable device. The blend of text, interactive games, animation and learning software enhances many books. Ebook formats allow the reader to highlight information, look up unknown vocabulary, add notes to the text and navigate quickly to any part of the book. Text size can be manipulated and accompanying audio is often available.

Some formats can be used on computers only; others are suitable and available for downloading to a wide range of portable devices. These include smart phones, Android or Apple, along with a plethora of other devices, ereaders of many varieties and idevices such as iTouch and iPad. The almost universal access students have to MP3 devices widens the possibility for book access through audio. Access to books on mobile platforms is provided through apps, some examples of which are provided here. One does not need to have bought a Kindle to read with the Kindle app as it is available across operating systems. This comparison chart guides you to the file formats suitable for use on your device.

Many other academic texts are available through databases accessible from the Library Home Page. The number of other etextbooks, both paid and free increases daily. A compilation of these sites and others providing access to ebooks, is located here for your perusal. Many titles located through the listed sites, can be downloaded to the platform of your preference.

During this last week the newest form of digital book has been promoted to be read on iPad and iPhone. The TED talk entitled A Next-Generation Digital Book by Mike Matas runs for 4m 35s and is well worth viewing. In this talk you will see the new book from Al Gore, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. This book uses the newest technology available, enabling the reader to manipulate the book and its contents in a surprising range of ways. It is indicative of the directions in which books are heading. This book is available for reading on library iPads.

Self-publishing sites have opened the ebook world to many previously unpublished authors and to those who wish to have more control over their own material. The results of their efforts can be seen at this range of sites. If you have a budding author in your family these sites provide a starting point for publishing an ebook.

With such a wide range of publishing options available and such easy access to ebooks, what is the library’s role?
Just as we continue to select the best in print books, so too, we concentrate on selecting the best from the ebook market for students. The library now has some Kindles for loan and students may request titles for adding to the Kindles. The iPads are available for in-house reading and other ebooks and etextbooks are housed on the library website. Audio books too are available for borrowing along with our range of printed books and the ever popular graphic novels.

Suggestions for students - Download some reading apps and add some titles. Use your device for more than music and games. Catch up with all those great classics you’ve not had the chance to read; they are free and often available as text and/or audio. Borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your local library, the Overdrive app brings remote borrowing to your device.

The world of books is being revitalised in previously unimaginable ways. Enjoy this renaissance of reading.

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