In my series on e-books for family literacy, I’ve emphasized the glories of human contact—as opposed to parents simply using e-books as babysitters.
Here’s a somewhat related example of the possibilities of E. In-person book clubs for kids. Recording a promotional YouTube for Sony, author Lori Gottlieb offered generic tips such as the need to round up kids with similar interests and then focus on those topics in the club. But she also threw in some e-book specific ideas such as use of the built-in dictionaries and annotation tools. I can see young students using paper equivalents, too, if they prefer—choices will vary. Same for the books themselves.
Many brands, not just Sony, offer dictionaries and other special e-capabilities. Interestingly, Kobo was recently selling some refurbished E Ink machines, with WiFi, for as little as $49 (catch: I don’t know if the Kobo’s dictionary will work with books not from the Kobo store). See photo below. The sale apparently is over now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that is the price of new Kobos and some other readers in the next two years. Certainly virtual local book clubs and forums could augment the old-fashioned variety.
Is it possible that some government agencies and foundations out there would be interested in experimenting with the use of e-book-friendly book clubs, public domain books, and Creative Commons titles, and give-away readers to encourage students from poor families to avoid the usual summer reading slump—with encouragement from librarians or teachers? Perhaps some of the books could tie in with pop-culture hits or certain of the games that libraries use as teen magnets. Locally chosen and published titles, fit for young people, would be especially good. And talk about feedback opportunities! Grassroots book clubs could be a natural.
As for the role of the Digital Public Library of Americaor similar efforts, I can envision librarians and others at the national level working with authors and publishers to develop both fiction and nonfiction titles (on appropriate topics) that children could freely share with each other because the licensing terms allowed for this.
While some of this is possible already through Creative Commons, it would be great to see librarians take a more active role in identifying the most promising of these e-titles. What’s more, I’d like to see financing mechanisms to reward publishers and writers of this open access content—especially since e-readers are constantly improving: digital book in the future won’t quite be as useful as promoters of paper books. Hello, DPLA?