By Carrie Ann

While there’s been discussion in the library and e-book blogosphere of Brain Hive’s select beta testing for its new on-demand e-book service for K-12 schools (see our post from July for more details), The Digital Shift reports that the company has finally made its launch official, just in time for the new school year.

We’re excited about the launch for a few reasons, including the potential the site has to influence new and affordable pricing models that will hopefully find their way out of schools and into new services for non-academic adult readers. We’re also pleased to see a company step in and develop an affordable solution for schools to update their library collections, even in the face of ever-dwindling funding.

By listening to the desires and ideas of school teachers, administration, and especially librarians, the company has set up an on-demand pay-as-you-go service where schools are simply charged $1.00 each time a title is accessed by a particular student.  This is clearly a more affordable pricing model than what has traditionally been available to schools from content publishers and distributors. What’s more, Brain Hive has already worked out a way for schools to save even more on titles that are in high demand by allowing schools to purchase such books for their permanent collections. Brain Hive also doesn’t charge any type of set-up or annual fee, and account administrators (usually a school’s librarian) has the most control over the service, being able to selectively choose titles and set the borrowing terms.

Brain Hive is launching with over 3,000 titles in its initial library collection from an impressive early selection of publishers (including Random HouseAnderson PressOpen RoadCharlesbridgeThe Creative Company, and more), and we especially like some of the service’s other features that haven’t yet been extensively reported.

For instance:

• Brain Hive has already established a system for people to donate money to a participating school of their choosing, to help fund that school’s e-book usage.

• Librarians in charge of setting up the service are given 10 free “Brain Hive Bucks” to try out the service before deciding whether or not to roll out a launch for their particular school.

• The site allows simultaneous usage of all available books–a great way for teachers to incorporate more reading into classroom lessons.

• The site also provides librarians with a suite of analytical tools, which were specifically designed to help them understand what and how their students are reading.

The analytics will also allow librarians to make more targeted improvements to their libraries, and they’ll provide useful feedback to teachers. This is particularly true for schools already enrolled in Renaissance Learning’s Accelerated Reader Program, as Brain Hive offers the very first online tool to allow evaluation of reading comprehension on an e-reader platform.

Brain Hive also works within the standard MARC catalog system, so librarians can seamlessly integrate the books into their main collection. The software that powers the Brain Hive experience also allows for the creation of book and reading clubs, along with many other useful and community-building tools for the students themselves. Though Brain Hive is currently only available to K-12 school libraries, we’re hoping they eventually expand their service to public libraries as well, as their pricing model and easy-to-use online services could be useful to smaller community libraries that also often lack the funds to keep their shelves and e-book selections brimming with newer texts.

Sharon Lapensky, a library media specialist with the Wayzata School District in Minnesota, recently spoke with a Minneapolis-area ABC affiliate about how she plans to use the service this coming school year. (See video below.) Wayzata was part of Brain Hive’s beta test group of twenty schools; many of them were located in the Minneapolis area, where Brain Hive is based.



  1. This sometimes happens to me, too, but there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to when or why those huge ads pop up. Usually there’s an “X” in the top right-hand corner of the ad, and if you can manage to click it (which can be tricky, since the ads move), that should close it. Otherwise, I just click the refresh button on my browser, which almost always results in an ad-less screen.

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