"Oh, that's an ebook! You can read it on a device. I'll show you how to log in!"
"Never mind. I'll look for something else."
When I started at Cornelius Elementary in 2011, I allocated all of my budget on ebooks. The physical collection was plentiful (though dated) but I really felt that with the price of e-reading devices such as Nooks and Kindles going down rapidly, e-book reading would take off. I love ebooks! I love having a built-in reading light. I love that it's easy to hold open. I love that I can adjust the font or highlight text without it being permanent. I teach digital natives so obviously they'll love ebooks too, right?
Wrong. Despite my best attempts at marketing them, they rarely got used.
The following year, I decided I needed to target the teachers, not the students. I purchased resources that 1) were available in unlimited format so that all teachers could use it at the same time (a drawback of print resources) 2) filled gaps in our collection and 3) directly addressed learning standards. The results? Moderate improvement from the teachers; still nothing from the students.
Year three I decided my strategy would be to purchase highly popular books for students. I focused mostly on fiction that was unavailable as a print book. Students wanted the Rick Riordan books so I bought them as ebooks. They wanted RJ Palacio's Wonder, so I bought it. Once again, I taught every student in grades 3-5 how to log in. I sent them home with their login, password and a link to my site with instructions on accessing and downloading. There was a notable uptick in checkouts during the time I was teaching this but it quickly disappeared.
After talking with some colleagues about this as this year's budget cycle began, I realized my frustration was not unique. The argument "I just like the feel of a book in my hands" was very real. So we brainstormed solutions on how to hit that tipping point. While I cannot put the actual book in their hands, I created a gateway toward that. My hope is that I can't get rid of the "out of sight, out of mind" obstacle. They are now very much in sight.
On cardstock, I printed the cover of the most popular ebooks in our collection.