Softlink/SLA survey: How do you get the best from eBooks? :: NEWS

Softlink/SLA survey: How do you get the best from eBooks?

13 July 2022 Share

With some schools still reporting a lack of uptake or interest in e-books, we explore some of the issues surrounding e-books in schools.


Technology is everywhere! As it continues to grow and evolve eBook and audiobook borrowing in schools as shown by Wheelers, is also growing in our UK libraries. However, our respondents to the Softlink/SLA 2021 school library survey indicated that just over 55% of school libraries had never used eBooks or audiobooks at all, even with enforced remote learning due to the COVID pandemic.

Technology was always paramount to assist students with their learning, but what makes us happy to read our kindles at home, but our students don’t feel the same at school? Is it a culture clash? A budget restraint or simply the Librarian’s personal preference? 

What are the issues?

Interestingly, once the school does adopt an eBook provision it appears to not last, of the 243 respondents that did invest in e-books and/or audiobooks less than half keep the service for longer than 2 years. Some thoughts from our survey highlighted:

  • “Was used a lot during lockdown but not as much since the library has opened full time”
  • “I would like to promote more widely for another year to see if students engage more with the collection. So far it looks like they prefer the physical books we have in our collections”
  • Leaders and budget (prevented the use of eBooks)

We asked James Richmond from Wheelers - one of the leading eBooks providers, for some further insight and Owen Clements from the Grammar School of Leeds, who has a strong eBook uptake, about using e-book/audio book within school libraries. 

James Richmond at Wheelers highlighted these benefits and why there is more to eBooks and audiobooks than simply adding titles to your catalogue:

  • Dyslexic readers can instantly convert every book to their chosen format
  • Audiobooks enhances vocabulary, fluency, language, pronunciation and phonics for all ages and ESL or SENCO students
  • Great for visually impaired 

Sound effects and music bring the story to life acting as a great introduction for reluctant readers

Furthermore, there are many advantages to using e-books in libraries as Wheelers covers:

  • No late returns
  • Always back in 100% condition 
  • No stocktake 
  • Holiday reading made easy
  • Library never closes 
  • Important in modern time

Owen Clements' thoughts on why e-books work in his school are: 

“Our students are already engaged library users, and I believe this is key to making a success of any eBook/audiobook platform”

“Integration with our existing catalogue in Oliver has helped, as lots of students make use of it already and will naturally find eBooks/audiobooks to borrow” 

And then goes on to say, “If staff members (librarians or otherwise) present the service in a similar way (i.e., a natural part of the digital environment that we all access and use every day), this will help reinforce these already existing attitudes in students”.


Although from our survey findings it showed that there was some lack of interest from students, it appeared the decision was down to leadership and budget as to why eBooks struggle to maintain a presence in school libraries. The driving force behind the school adopting eBooks/audiobooks will need to come from the library staff; they will need to change mindsets for both the leaders and the students within the school and only then will budgets be freed, and this technology become part of a active school library. 

To help you engage with e-books in schools, the SLA has produced this introductory guide, which you can download here.