Sunday, February 19, 2012

Update on Nooks in the Library

Last week, I was discussing the idea of putting a magazine collection on E-readers with some fellow library types and a couple were interested in my experience so far. Here it goes, the good along with the bad. In the early part of the school year, I decided to adopt the Nook Color as a device to circulate in the library. My decision was based on recommendations from various colleagues, as well as the availability of the local Barnes and Noble representatives to help launch the program. I had a plan to purchase 6 Nooks, with each having a particular theme. For example, one Nook would have a Sports theme, another a comic/manga theme, another with a celebrity theme, etc. I planned on purchasing a mix of Apps, Magazines and books for each Nook so that a user that checked out a device would experience the joy of discovering interesting content and be motivated to check it out frequently upon visiting the library. Well, at every stage of execution, my plan did not quite work as I had hoped. I was happy with the support of the Barnes and Noble rep, who visited me twice on campus to help me work out some issues. However, there was considerable difficulty getting the managed accounts set up and the project was delayed by over a month because of inefficiency and confusion. I definitely wanted to get the so-called managed account because it would make it possible to purchase content with a purchase order instead of my personal credit card (I could get no guarantee of reimbursement for this either). The immediate problem was that as soon as I enrolled the Nooks in the managed account, it was not legal to purchase magazine subscriptions. This was a huge setback for me, as I had already cut my print magazine subscription list with plans to have a better selection of electronic magazines. I was able to submit a list of books and received some very helpful suggestions to help fill in the collection on each of the Nooks. Another disappointment was cost. I found some great sale prices on the B&N Web site but the price granted to me on the managed account was full price for the same item. I was really impressed with the way the books were delivered. They magically appeared on the correct device once the purchase order was received. I was very excited when that happened and quickly prepared a mini-publicity blitz to let the students know about the Nook collections. The most popular Nook, as expected, has been the Manga/Comics edition, which also has the Hunger Games trilogy. However, of the users that checked out this Nook, only a couple returned to check it out again. In a number of cases, a student got interested in reading a book on a Nook, and then would ask if I had the print copy of the same title. It seems that many are nervous about losing or damaging the device and this is a disincentive for some of the lower income students. When the Nooks first arrived, there was a novelty factory that generated interest. However, the students quickly decided that the iPads were more quick and versatile as tablets, so the Nooks are no longer selected because of the device. On top of that B&N released a new tablet that would certainly be a better choice than the under-powered Nook Color. The only motivator to use the Nooks anymore is really the content. As mentioned quite a few would prefer that content in print. Overall, the circulation of Nooks has been below expectations. On top of that, consider the economics. On my initial purchase, I bought 6 Nooks and 30 e-book titles for a total of $1800. For the same cost, I could have easily ordered 100 print books, so there are 70 fewer books, because of the device cost. On top of that, the magazine plan was a bust, and I was also hoping to gain more subscriptions at a lower cost compared with print. I should mention that my student population is only 130 this year. I work at a new campus with only a 9th grade. With a larger student population arriving in the coming years, I fully expect to see higher circulation of the Nooks, and if that is the case, I would certainly continue to purchase more titles to maintain interest. As with any technology it is often best to wait and see, and in hindsight, I would have waited to get the Nook Tablet, or considered the much less expensive black and white e-readers.

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