E-book enquiries from schools have gone "through the roof", according to library supplier Browns Books for Students. The company, which is owned by Gardners, announced its e-book platform VLeBooks earlier this month, before its launch to the schools market in the early summer.
Steve Berrieman, marketing and IT manager at Browns, confirmed that most of the interest in e-books is coming from school librarians rather than teachers.
Browns has agreed individual terms with publishers to make e-books available to schools through its VLeBooks platform, but further details were not available. Berrieman confirmed, however, that the e-books will be sold to schools on the basis they can be loaned a number of times to students.
Schools may also be offered different packages for varying levels of access, although this scheme has not yet been confirmed by the company. The price of the books will be comparable to standard e-book pricing, Berrieman added.
Browns' online platform will enable students to read their e-books on a computer or mobile device, as well as allowing students to download the e-books in order to read them offline or on an e-reader. Browns will manage the e-book sales via its own server, which will enable the company to regulate how the purchased books are viewed, said Berrieman.
Miles Stevens-Hoare, m.d. of library publisher Raintree, said he hoped Browns' initiative will help to "kick-start" the schools e-books market. "We are increasingly asked by schools whether our books are available as e-books, which they are, but schools are still somewhat challenged about how they see e-books working in class and in their libraries," he said, adding: "They feel they should be using e-books, but [they] aren't sure how to."
Another educational publisher, who declined to be named, said that the lack of e-reading devices in schools was holding back the market. A spokesperson for the publisher claimed that VLE's (virtual learning environments) in schools provided a ready platform for e-textbooks, as these could be sold on a subscription basis and be viewed by pupils and teachers online.
Apple, meanwhile, is trying to corner the market for textbooks by way of its self-publishing and textbook apps, which it launched in January. However, authors using the apps will only be able to sell their e-books through Apple's iBookstore.