I Went to My Older Son’s Rookie League Team BBQ Last Night and
got talking with a dad who works for a major academic publisher. He was just back from the Canadian Library Association meeting where his job was to sell on-line rights to their books. As many of you may know, this cross of book and online got its big start when Oxford put the OED online. That was the "killer-ap" that showed universities, libraries, publishers that a subscription model could work online for a work traditionally sold in print. Now, the dad I met offers many books and book series to college libraries. The school then makes those resources available to students and faculty anytime and anywhere they log in to the library.
I am sure this is much more familiar to all of you than to me. But it opens up this question — why couldn’t we do something similar to with nonfiction for K-12? Why not group books around a curricular topic, license that cluster to schools, provide some teachers guide materials showing how those particular texts can be used, offer some links to primary sources, outline links to multimedia options if available (like the sound clips I wrote about earlier this week). In other words, as the academic publishers are doing, turn a single hardcover book into a resource that can easily be shared and used in class — skipping over the entire publishers-often-don’t-put-YA-nonfiction-into-paperback, and hardcovers-cost-too-much-to-be-used-in-class, issue.
I realize that not all kids have easy computer access, that schools would need to figure out what is the right age level for providing this online access, that there are (as I talk about in a Consider the Source column) copyright and perm issues for us that are different from academic books — especially because we all use more art. I realize all this. And, to be clear, I don’t think just dumpiong resources into an online environment is a good idea. The great advantage of a library, and, especially, a school library is selection, and the knowledge provided by the librarian. So the obvious extension would be to have the school librarian meet with the teachers before each semester, work together to select the online resources that will be most useful during that period, and then to plan out the regular bound book resources that would work hand in hand with the online selection.
Probably many of you are doing something like this already, but isn’t this an obvious model for authors, editors, publishers, teachers, and librarians to create together?