Mary, I downloaded some e-books to take on vacation with me and kept track of the positives and negatives. Portability was definitely a plus - three full-length novels (from our local library system) and dozens of (Beatles') songs on an inexpensive, pocket-sized MP3 player. Some negatives: these "library books" couldn't be put on an iPod, although they were compatible with some very reasonably-priced players; cheap earphones weren't good enough to block out airplane engine noise. The narrators did an excellent job, however, it took hours to listen to one book. (Since I'm a very quick reader, this was frustrating for me). Many public libraries offer e-books now, and some schools in our area are following suit. I'd do a trial run with volunteers before committing too much of the library budget. Although the players are not expensive, repair and replacement could become an issue, if you plan to loan them out.
eBooks might be a godsend for reluctant readers or special needs students. Since our district forbids electronic devices during the school day, however, some intense discussions with administrators would have to take place before our LMC could endorse and promote this technology.
Did you dump the Power Library ebooks into your catalog this year? I did it in October and about one month ago, we had 400-500 hits on the books. They are free and there are thousands of high school level titles.
I like them because of the remote access and they are pretty easy to use. The kids need a little hand holding just to get started with them - but for nonfiction I think most don't mind them at all.
We purchased some of the e-books available from Thomson Gale for our secondary libraries this year and they have been very popular for research. They can be searched through Gale's PowerSearch, so when you search their databases, you get results from the e-books we have as well. This is especially useful when several students need the same reference volume. They can ALL use it online!
As for audiobooks, we have found the Playaway to be a great alternative to downloading the content. If you aren't familiar with these, take a look at http://store.playawaydigital.com. They give you the book and the player all in one. These have also been very successful on our secondary campuses.
We have many of the Virtual Reference sets from Thomson-Gale as well. They are really fabulous for research because it doesn't limit the book to one reader at a time as the Net-Library e-books do. Although we do have many literary criticism titles on NetLibrary that are used.
I also thought that the Playaway books would be the perfect alternative to downloading audio books. I was given a sample to try out this week. I could not get the Playaway to work with speakers and when I used the earphones that came with the book, the sound faded in and out and skipped. Did I just get a bad one?
Sorry, I knew Mary was a fellow Pennsylvanian! Our state provides ebooks through their Power Library program, so it is only available within Pennsylvania. It is an awesome program that hosts interlibrary loans throughout the states and gives every participant approx. $33,000 worth of database subscriptions per year (we all get the same subscriptions) If your area of Canada doesn't have a similar program, Pennsylvania is a great model - they should contact our state library.