Examining the Potential of Electronic Books within Children's Libraries and Classrooms

By Christy Alyea


Case Study
E-books and Libraries
Works Cited


The book is an educational tool that has existed for centuries. In recent years, the concept of the “book” has changed. Books no longer refer to just printed text on paper bound between a cover. Books can now be found in a variety of formats. Audio and digitized books are just some of the formats that now exist for readers to choose from. Electronic books are a new form of print media that are starting to appear in libraries around the world today. This paper addresses the issue of electronic books for children and how this media is being used in children’s libraries and classroom settings. Are these “e-books” an advantage or disadvantage in aiding to develop learning skills in children? Is it worth libraries’ time and money to utilize e-books for children? This paper will address these questions and incorporate case studies from various libraries and schools to examine how e-books for children are used today.

What are E-books?

Defining an electronic book is not as easy as it initially seems. Church (2005) defines an e-book as “a digital version of a traditional print book designed to be read on a personal computer or an e-book reader (a software application for use on a standard-sized computer or a book-sized computer used solely as a reading device)” (pg. 10). This is a fairly broad definition so it is important to look at the various types of electronic books that are available for children today. Clyde (2005) identifies four distinct types of e-books. First, there are e-books on CD-ROM. These e-books require a computer with a CD-ROM drive and can usually be printed out, though printing results in the loss of many of the multimedia features found on the CD (pg. 45). Second, there are downloadable versions of e-books available on the Internet, which can be obtained for free or by paying a small fee. These books usually come in a PDF file format and can be read using software such as Adobe reader or can be printed out, page by page (pg. 45). Third, there are downloadable e-books online that require special software in order to view them. The software can usually be downloaded for free from the same site that offers the e-book (pg. 45). Finally, there are e-books that require a “dedicated e-book reader” which is a portable hardware device with a high resolution screen and special capabilities for viewing and reading books (pg. 45). The e-book is downloaded directly onto this reader and read right from the device itself (pg. 45). Some libraries that lend e-books also lend the readers.

It is obvious then, that children can engage with electronic books in a variety of ways. Different types of texts can be presented in electronic format and this can influence children’s learning and reading habits, both inside and outside educational settings. With such an assortment of formats for electronic books, it is important to observe how children use e-books within the classroom and the library.

E-Books as Learning Tools

Books have traditionally played a major role in the development of children’s reading skills and in the promotion of general learning in children. Reading units, book studies and activities with book-related themes are commonplace in elementary school classrooms to enhance reading skills in young children. With the emergence of electronic books, there have been arguments on whether this format delivers the same educational advantages as the traditional print book does. One issue that has been raised in support of e-books for children is that this format provides a better opportunity for children to interact with the text of the book. Many believe that the e-book is a significant new medium which can offer added value to the printed book through its potential for including other media in addition to text on its pages (Landoni et. al., 2000). There has been some research that particularly focuses on the use of “e-textbooks” within the classroom and how these electronic tools contribute to children’s learning. According to Landoni and Diaz (2003), “an e-textbook is an e-book which contains educational material for teaching and learning methods.” These textbooks can be used to teach children both within and outside the classroom. Landoni and Diaz (2003) argue that “the e-book is particularly suited to enhancing learning outside of the classroom and recent technological developments have produced a powerful incentive to provide such electronic material for educational purposes.” Since e-textbooks are available in multiple formats and are continually being updated, there is an advantage for children to use them over print textbooks, which are often outdated and only replaced every few years or so (Dugan, 2003). With these arguments in favour of using e-books to enhance children’s learning, it is important to examine the advantages and disadvantages of using electronic books as learning tools for children.


E-textbooks | Case Study | E-books and Libraries | Conclusions | Works Cited

This site was last updated 02/28/07

This paper was originally written as an assignment for LIS 585: Multimedia Texts for Young People. This course is offered at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta. The paper was converted to HTML to fulfill the requirements for LIS 600 (Capping Exercise).