Are they worth keeping after the pandemic?
Last Spring it became clear that reading in the World Language classroom had to be rethought for the 2020-21 school year. Rushing to make sure students would have good CI novels available, I can count at least nine companies*** that introduced a subscription model eBook program. As I write this sentence we are still miserably isolated from one another and eBooks continue to play a crucial role in the WL classroom… BUT look ahead to Autumn 2021! With the majority of the population vaccinated, will we even need eBooks anymore?
Get ready for the roaring 20’s! Like the post-war 1920’s, the post-pandemic 2020’s is going to be a great time to be alive. Personally I am looking forward to the jazz. What?! Am I wrong about where the musical culture is heading? Please Ariana: front a jazz ensemble! Well, one thing we certainly will be going back to is our physical classroom libraries. I think that touching and browsing books, leading students to contemplate the covers and stroll down the class collection; that is an essential part of growing to be a true reader.
For me, scrolling through Amazon search pages for a new book has never been nearly as pleasurable as browsing the real books on display at Kramers Books on Dupont Circle, Washington DC. Think of your favorite bookshops: Powell’s in Portland. The Last Book Store in Los Angeles. Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge. Strand Book Store in NYC. The physical pleasure of opening a book, looking at illustrations and reading a random paragraph is what many real readers treasure. If we have a pleasure reading program, we want to hook our students with the full reading experience so that they develop a lifelong fascination with reading.
I do not think that eBooks are going to disappear, however. The eBook subscription has an interesting advantage when teachers are choosing a novel to read as a whole class novel. Consider this: a class set of paperback novels will cost about $200 and will last at most 5-6 years. Probably less. Some of them will be destroyed, defaced or disappeared in the first year, so plan on buying several replacements every year. Even if you only bought 2 replacements every year you’d pay more than $300 for your class set.
At My Generation of Polyglots we priced our eBooks to be a little less than one year’s worth of buying a class set. That is, you pay $29.99 for whole class access, about 1/6 the price of buying a physical class set. eBooks cannot be defaced, lost, torn or thrown away.
Better yet, when you buy a physical class set of novels you are now locked in economically to use that set for the next six years. If the story that you thought would amuse your students gets groans instead, you’re stuck with that book! An eBook subscription allows you to switch every year, keep the titles that your students love and drop the stories that just don’t work.
Another advantage of eBook subscriptions is that you can teach the same novel to multiple sections and allow all of your students to “take the book home to read”. You’d have to buy a full class set for every section you teach if you did that with paperbacks!
If you are already making plans for next year, keep in mind that eBooks have clear advantages for teaching a whole class novel. With the savings you could afford to buy a few paperback copies to loan to students without internet access at home… and it would still be cheaper!
*** The nine companies that now have eBook subscription programs: My Generation of Polyglots, Compelling Language Corner, Puentes Language, Fluency Matters, Mira Canion, E-Lit App, Story Labs, Flangoo, and TPRS books.