In my first year of a one to one environment, 2011-2012, I had the use of netbooks. I base most of my Literature curriculum on Literature Circles. In order to get cheaper books, I thought it would be great to get digital copies. At this time there was really no forum for teachers/ schools to do this. Our school library did use the Follett system to manage the print library so we began by researching their emerging digital program. We found that they did not have a good selection for the price they were asking. I attended the AMLE national conference while we were searching for a solution and attended a session about eReaders. There I was able to connect with some teachers who were also embarking on this one-to-one journey. They suggested setting up a school Kindle account. At that time, Amazon would allow you to sign-in to an unlimited amount of devices with one account. Then technically, one could read one book on up to 6 devices. Since I had students reading different books in groups of four, I felt that we could set up a school account and that I could manage it myself. This did work very well that year. Keep in mind though, I only had to worry about 52 students and managing only classroom assigned reading.
By the end of that school year, Amazon came out with a statement that they did not feel schools were following copyright laws in using that system. Since we were set on teaching students digital citizenship, we felt like we had to lead by example and stop this practice.
Over the summer I researched other options. The local library in our area uses OverDrive to manage digital libraries. I researched their options for schools, looked into Follett again, and researched Storia (Scholastic). After reading other school librarians reviews, we decided to go with OverDrive. They had the most reasonable pricing and the most options. They also seemed the easiest to manage for a whole school. Follett still seemed to not have much selection. Storia is hard to manage for a whole school because you can have only 30 accounts per user. This might be better for one classroom.
With OverDrive we were able to roll-out in about a month. We did this around Christmas time. We didn’t want to start this when we first distributed the iPads, because we didn’t want to throw too much at teachers and students at once. We found that the roll out was VERY easy. We sent our already made list of student user ids and passwords to OverDrive and they set up the accounts for us. Students just needed the OverDrive app, added our library, signed in and got going. This is another site that has improved a lot in one year. At first,searching and buying books was very complicated but they have ironed out the kinks. When you first set up your school account you will have a series of conference calls with their representative. One to give an overview of how it all works, one to set up your school’s settings – how long books can be out etc.-, and one to choose books. We did find that books were MUCH more expensive than we had thought. i am an avid Kindle customer, so I assumed the OverDrive digital copies would be similar in that digital copies are cheaper. This is not the case. Usually books range from $25- $60. Also, I had falsely thought that many copies of one book purchased could be read at once. This is not true. All books are one-one. Also, OverDrive still does not have many Scholastic books. I think that Scholastic is starting to come over because I am seeing more audiobooks of what they have published.
In the beginning, we had one of their content specialists create a list of books for us to start our library with, focusing on what is popular with young adults. We found some of the books to be inappropriate for our audience, being a Catholic school. I say this so that you do not purchase blindly based on their recommendations.
Also, I had previously made units to do with specific books in Literature Circles, that I had hoped to find on OverDrive. After planning lessons for these books, I found that they were not offered on OverDrive. For example, I planned a historical fiction literature circle unit only to find that half the books were not offered. Instead, I would suggest buying the books first, or at least seeing what is offered, and then picking from that list what you will choose.
This is a very quickly developing market, so many of these suggestions may be obsolete eventually. I think that it will only get better and more accessible.