E-books and cellphone petting zoos for libraries: LG39C could be one of the animals

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E-book petting zoos at libraries let patrons can try out different kinds of e-book readers and tablets. Now here's a related idea: library-friendly cellphone petting zoos.

Keep in mind that many young people and low-income folks don't think of themselves normally as e-book fans. It's the phones they care about most of all. But some econo-phones can serve as at least adequate e-book readers.

Other than a wallet or purse, guess which object people are most likely to carry with them? And from there, it's just a question of talking up e-books and saying, "Hey, give this a try." A cellphone with a small screen isn't everyone's cup of tea for e-reading. But the eyes of many teenagers are sharp enough. And some readers with attention deficit issues and other print impairments say the narrow screens of cellphones are actually better.

As one possibility for some patrons on a budget, I'd recommend the LG39c (Optimus Dynamic II) made by LG and available for use with the economy prepaid Tracfone plan, which as far as I know has no age limit. Cost of the LG39c is $100 now and likely to drop. The manual with detailed information is here.

The LG39c is hardly the fastest model, admittedly. Most games-players would laugh at it, and Web browsing could be speedier. The RAM is just 512K, and the dual core 1GHZ CPU is hardly impressive, and the Androd 4.1 isn't the latest. But the LG39c has a 3.8 inch screen, bigger than the ones on many similarly priced cellphones. The LG39c can tap into the Google Play Store and comes with e-mail and texting apps and many others already installed. It runs the OverDrive media console and the Kindle e-reading appsjust fine and works with another e-book capable Android appMantano Reader, which offers text to speech and supports the Adoble DRM that libraries use. For better readability—the resolution is a less than outstanding  320×480—you might choose Mantano's all-bold option.

For more details on the LG39c and similar devices for library use, check out LibraryCity's guide to getting the most out of library e-books. And for ideas on using wall posters to keep e-books on young people's mind and make them more of a social experience, go here.

No, I'm not going to mention other interesting cellphones right now—this isn't a full survey of the options available, just a reflection of my own experience with the LG39c. But for library patrons who want to sink a little more into their phones, the 8GB Moto G and the 16GB Moto X might be worth consideration. Over at TeleRead, see my friend Chris Meadows' review of the Moto X, combined with a plan that lets cellphone users take advantage of WiFi to cut their bills.

Also worth considering, based simply on customer comments at Amazon, might be the BLU Studio 5.5 D610a Unlocked Dual SIM GSM Phone, which, according to some advertising, has a five-inch screen—some users say it's bigger. In general BLU models tend to have larger displays than similarly priced competitors', although there are tradeoffs.

Some related ideas:

Idea #1: What if cellphone companies teamed up with libraries to give young users "talk time" for meaningful participation in library programs, especially literacy-related ones. I think people should engage in recreational reading for their pleasure. But if this can hook them, why not experiment?

Idea #2: I also wonder about the possibility of libraries collaborating with different e-book vendors to come up with software especially designed enjoying e-books and other library offerings on low-powered phones without having to rely on the OverDrive eco-system. Without their own eco-system, libraries stand a good chance of eventually being bypassed. The ideal solution would be a purchase of OverDrive at a fair price, by way of a national digital library endowment. But that's another post.

Idea #3: Could there be phone recycling programs designed with libraries especially in mind?

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