One day recently I was home and realized I had run out; not out of toilet paper or milk but something much more important; I had run out of books to read. The horror! Then I remembered that the library was closed on Sundays over the summer and stuck with the double whammy of no books and no way to check more out I was really in a funk. That is until I got on my local library’s website and decided to download some digital eBooks to keep me quiet and happy. After downloading some software, a program to read the eBooks on and a program that acts as a sort of library for my downloaded titles, I chose two books: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (A 2011 Teens Top Ten Nomination ) and Kerosene by Chris Wooding (author of Malice, 2001 Top Ten Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults). Some people are fussy eaters, but I am a fussy reader. I adjusted the page size, the text resolutions, two page view or one page view; I tweaked my eBook more than I read it. I thought maybe the books I chose were not holding my attention, but browsing is hard when you aren’t sure what you are looking for. I still think I like paper books.
So what does our digital generation think? Are eBooks the wave of the future? You have one less reason to leave home and risk being seen with your parents or siblings. That sounds pretty appealing. What about those eBook readers? Will they be as commonplace as a home computer and TV or will only teens with massive allowances read digitized fiction? During Teen Tech Week 2011, YALSA encouraged readers to Get Connect with 25 ways to celebrate; the number 1 activity they suggested was to download an eBook.
Teen eBook Survey
- Do you download or buy eBooks? What device, i.e. laptop, Kindle, Android Reader, iPod Touch, Nook, etc., do you use?
Ivy, age 14 : Yes, iPad, but Kindle app.
Dawn, teen librarian, works with teens 14-18 : Has only helped adults with eBooks.
- Where do you get your eBooks?
Ivy : Amazon.com in the Kindle Books section.
Dawn : CLEVNET eMedia Collection
- What do you like or dislike about digital books? Is it easier or more difficult to browse for titles on the computer?
Ivy : I dislike the fact they give me headaches when I read for too long, it’s sort of annoying.
Dawn : My teens complain about expense of eReaders
- Additional comments:
Ivy : Usually it’s easier, unless you’re searching for a book that has such a common title then sorting through the millions of books that come up is sort of a hassle.
Dawn : My teens tell me if they, get an electronic device they want it to have other functions like being able to download music or access the internet. They would rather have a laptop or smartphone. To them an eBook reader is just another toy. She quoted a teen as saying â€œIf I want a book, I want a book, I want to hold a book and turn pages.â€
I always want to know what teens are thinking, but in this case, it seems they prefer to stay mum. Despite trying to get surveys via numerous library Facebook pages, email and word of mouth, I found it really difficult to get answers. I ran into a lot of the same problems with those I did actually speak with, either my teens don’t have a device to read eBooks with at all or they had or have access to one but still prefer paper books. Lacking in funds and not seeking to up their nerd quotient, having an eBook reader poses a lot of challenges to today’s teen. From a recent article Not Just for Teens | A 35 Going on 13 Special in Library Journal, it seems clear that “YA eBooks do a brisk business, but most eReader users are adults.” I use eBooks at home, but with so little feedback from young adults it’s hard to guess at what all the challenges are to them getting into the idea of digital books.
I applaud those trying to to mainstream technology and digital devices. By bringing eReaders into the forefront we can demystify
them and hopefully prove the value of staying current with changes in media. In the Report from Annual 2011: Teens Reading Digitally, a school in Florida wanted to give all teachers and students access to eReaders, so they bought 2,300 Kindles. It sounds like an extreme case and a hefty price tag, but with access to textbooks and periodicals the education each students receives can be more well rounded. The value of learning to work with new devices and media is also invaluable now that most colleges assume a certain level of digital literacy and often require each student bring a computer to school. Linda W. Braun suggests in The Problem with Either Or that only by putting eReaders in teens hands can we really know if teens like them and want to use them more. Just asking teens if they like eBooks and eReaders isn’t enough; after all, how can you say you don’t like something if you don’t have any experience with it? Braun states that “when they have the opportunity for real experience with reading in digital form” you can then determine if teens really like the whole concept of this new format.
The Report from Annual 2011 reminded me of Teen Librarian Dawn who asserted that today’s teen really wants a multifunction device not an eReader that only does books. Even the websites we frequent provide a variety of modes for self expression. In a way we are all self published authors any time we get on a social networking site; Figment takes this a step further by giving teens a forum for their words as well as their lives by providing space for blogs, prose, and group videos. Jacob Lewis co-found Figment, “Figment is a community where you can share your writing, connect with other readers, and discover new stories and authors. Whatever you’re into, from sonnets to mysteries, from sci-fi stories to cell phone novels, you can find it all here” (Figment)
Anytime someone works to change perception, I’m in. I just learned Friday that in addition to holding books, the Kindle has word games and a dictionary, which you might need to win the word scramble. I also learned many ereaders allow you to bookmark items, write notes to come back to later and even highlight text to help you study. Any one who has ever paid a fine for writing in a book knows this feature is a must.
Based on my experience with The Ohio eBook Project, I think books for young adults are hard to find. If you visit your library, there probably is a special section for readers 6-12th grade, but on the OEP, you cannot browse teen fiction from the main page. This leads one to think maybe there just are not any. It’s really there, but you have to do an advanced search, and of course Young Adult is way at the bottom of the list. Is this starting to feel like work to anyone? I give props to libraries like The Cape May County Library of New Jersey that make a point to show off the new digital items in their collection. I also thought their screen shot of a link of OverDrive, an eBook and audio vendor, was a good idea; I would want to roam around and browse if I knew the way to free materials too.
Hang in there teens, eBooks are coming your way at the library, at home and even in your schools. It may take the help of the adults in your life to get an eReader in your hands, but with free digital pickings at your library, eBooks are worth the work and the wait.
Laura C Perenic is reading Sister Mischief by Laura Goode and Enclave by Ann Aguirre (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominations)
You may also like:
Latest posts by Laura Perenic (see all)
- YA Lit Dream Interpretation: Spiders - May 28, 2015
- YA Lit Dream Interpretation: Snakes - April 23, 2015
- 2015 Morris Award: An Interview with Finalist Len Vlahos - January 29, 2015