|From the book cover of Reluctant Medium by G.G. Collins|
I have to confess: I've been prejudiced against certain mediums. Not people mediums, story mediums. I was a die hard print reader until my daughter dragged me into the world of the Kindle. Then I still thought this was just modern print, and refused any other mediums like audio, graphics, video game stories, and so on. I was also prejudiced against any tablet-style medium - only plain old e-ink for TRUE READERS. Ha! Now I eat crow... and have learned the value of all the various story mediums for various patron needs.
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen an increase in ebook reading and audiobook listening at my library. This has a huge impact on the reader, but I had never really thought of it as Reader’s Advisory before. I thought of it more as technology advisory, but it is absolutely true that it has a major impact on the experience of reading a book.
I have a lot of trouble with recommending audiobooks. As Kaite Mediatore says in Reading With Your Ears, “The most significant element of appeal for a recorded book [is] audible presentation…” The narrator is the key here, and I didn’t know where to turn for that kind of information. Amazon, Baker & Taylor, and publishers will tell who the narrator is, but more details aren’t listed. For example, I tried to listen to Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer, but found that the heavy British accent made it impossible to decipher. Ergh! So frustrating! In writing, this is a wonderful story and I can “hear” the accent in my head, but as an audio it will never circulate in my library because no one can tell what it’s saying. Of course, now Amazon offers a preview feature and that’s invaluable when we’re purchasing for the library, but what about the patron browsing the shelf? How will he or she know if the audiobook is something they’ll enjoy? I think they’ll need librarian “picks” to help them get started, and then if they find a favorite narrator, author, genre, or creator they’ll be good to go for a while.
Format, I think, is becoming more and more important in audiobooks as it is for ebooks. I found that circulation of our YA audiobook collection had decreased dramatically, and on investigating, discovered that local teens use Chromebooks for school, which don’t have a disk drive. They don’t use Walkman’s (so old school), they don’t drive until 17 or older, so they simply don’t have a device on which to play an audio CD. They will, however, happily listen to books on Playaway devices, or, more frequently, download them onto their phones. This last option requires some training, but once they have the apps and their library login, they seem to really like it.
Ebooks is a whole ‘nother issue. Any books that are heavy on graphics, whether actual graphic novels or non-fiction full of charts and maps, will NOT play well with a regular Kindle or other plain ereader. If your patron reads that kind of stuff, they’ll need a Kindle Fire, IPad, or tablet if they want the ebook instead of the print book. I got an exercise book a couple of years ago on my Kindle and the photos are small and the charts are completely useless. I had to get on the laptop and download them there, then print them out for use in workouts. Fortunately, I got lazy and quit working out sothat’s not an issue anymore, lol. The other major factor for ebooks is ease of accessing the books and ease of using the reader. Kindle is a hands-down winner here, but for teens, who are unlikely to have their own Amazon account, the Kindle app on their phone will work as will Adobe Reader, which lets them read epub and pdf formats as well. Maximum versatility. Also, students who are required to read classics may be able to find them for free download if they’re in the public domain, but the formats will be not be supported by Amazon.
There are a couple other interesting intangibles that people like about ebooks. One new feature that has recently come up was when a mom at our library decided to get her daughter an ereader so that as she goes off to college, the mom can instantly send any books to help her get through the homesickness, or other issues, and they can stay connected. Isn’t that nice? Also, I have learned through my brother-in-law, who works for a textbook distributor, that more and more college books are becoming available through Kindle so students don’t have to carry those gigantic textbooks. With newer ereaders that have bookmarking and comment features, this is a nice perk. We have one family in my library who particularly likes to borrow ebooks because they automatically return and the poor mom constantly was trying to wrangle books and worry about late fines. Ebooks to the rescue!I think the only issue they have now is the lack of enough titles to check out, so the libraries need to rise to that challenge.
My new motto: Right story, right format, right equipment for ALL!
Mediatore, K. (2003). Reading with Your Ears: Readers' Advisory and Audio Books. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 42(4), 318-23.