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DPLA & Ebooks

DPLA & Ebooks

DPLA & Ebooks  /  Curation Corps  /  Ebook Working Group  /  Open eBooks

Join us in developing a national strategy for ebooks

Submit your information to find out how you can get involved in DPLA Ebook Working Group projects.


Books are among the richest artifacts of human culture. In the last half-millenium, we have written over a hundred million of them globally, and within their pages lie incredibly diverse forms of literature, history, and science, poetry and prose, the sacred and the profane. Thanks to our many partners, the Digital Public Library of America already contains over two million books, fully open and free to read.

But we have felt since DPLA’s inception that even with the extent of our ebook collection, we could be doing much more to connect the public, in more frictionless ways, with the books they wish to read. It is no secret that the current landscape for ebooks is rocky and in many ways inhospitable to libraries and readers. Ebook apps are often complicated for new users, and the selection of ebooks a mere fraction of what is on the physical shelves. To their credit, publishers have become more open recently to sharing books through library apps and other digital platforms, but pricing, restrictions, and the availability of titles still vary widely.

At the same time, new models for provisioning ebooks are arising from within the library community. In Colorado, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, among other places, libraries and library consortia are exploring ways to expand their e-collections. Some are focusing on books of great local interest, such as genre writers within their areas or biographies of important state figures; others are working with small and independent publishers to provide a wider market for their works; and still others are attempting to recast the economics of ebook purchasing to the benefit of readers and libraries as well as publishers and authors through bulk purchases. Moreover, initiatives from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to open access to existing works, and from the Authors Alliance, which is helping authors to regain their book rights, offer new avenues for books to be made freely available.

At the DPLA, we are particularly enthusiastic about the role that our large and expanding national network of hubs can play in creating an open collection of ebooks. Many of our service hubs have already scanned books from their regions, and are generously sharing them through DPLA. Public domain works are being aggregated by content hubs such as HathiTrust, with more coming online every month. It is clear that we can bring these threads together to create a richer, broader tapestry of ebooks for readers of all ages and interests.

Included below are some of the current ways in which we are actively contributing to the ebook landscape.

Ebook Working Group

Thanks to the generous funding of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, we are excited to facilitate ongoing and in-depth discussions about ebooks and their future, and what DPLA and our partners can do to help build a national strategy. Along with The New York Public Library, a leader in library technology and services, we plan to intensify the discussions we have already been having with publishers, authors, libraries, and the public about how to connect the maximal number of ebooks with the maximal number of readers.

The purpose of the DPLA Ebook Working Group is to hold focused conversations about developing a framework for a national ebook strategy. Topics include: Advocacy, Collection, Operations, and Technology.

The Ebook Working Group is open to all library ebook stakeholders willing to tackle these challenges. There are three ways to get involved:

Open Ebooks Initiative

In April 2015, President Obama announced a major new program, Open eBooks, that will provide kids in need with greater access to thousands of popular and award-winning ebooks. The Open eBooks initiative includes contemporary titles from publishers, which are being generously donated as part of the effort, and are available for free to kids from low-income and military families. The publisher commitments include $250 million in ebook donations. DPLA’s national network of librarians is helping to coordinate books for inclusion in the program, and are connecting qualifying kids across America to a truly “all you can read” collection (see below for more details).

DPLA joins a coalition of literacy, library, publishing and technology partners including The New York Public Library and First Book, with help from Baker & Taylor.  NYPL created an app that enables kids to read ebooks on a variety of devices, including tablets that have been donated as part of the White House’s ConnectED initiative and on the smartphones that are increasingly used by Americans at all income levels. First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that already provides millions of print books to classrooms and programs serving children in need, is providing full access to its network of 175,000 educators and program leaders, and identifying additional qualifying programs.

To find out more about the Open eBooks, click here.

Questions about Open eBooks? Email us.

DPLA Curation Corps

As part of Open eBooks, DPLA is calling on librarians and other information professionals to help coordinate books for inclusion in the program. We are seeking motivated, engaged community members who have experience with building and organizing children and young adult book collections, and who have time to spend building out our collections. If you are interested in helping us connect books to young readers, and you have expertise in this area, please consider being a member of our Curation Corps. You do NOT have to be affiliated with a current DPLA hub library to participate. Participants will receive a stipend.

More information about the roles and responsibilities of DPLA Curation Corps members can be found here.

Questions about the DPLA Curation Corps? Email us.

HathiTrust and DPLA Partnership

The Digital Public Library of America and HathiTrust have had a strong relationship since DPLA’s inception in 2013. As part of our ongoing collaboration to host and make digitized books widely available, we are now working to see how we can provide our services to exciting new initiatives that bring ebooks to everyone.

The Humanities Open Book grant program, a joint initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is exactly the kind of program we wish to support, and we stand ready to do so. Under this funding program, NEH and Mellon will award grants to publishers to identify previously published books and acquire the appropriate rights to produce an open access e-book edition available under a Creative Commons license.  Participants in the program must deposit an EPUB version of the book in a trusted preservation service to ensure future access.

To find out more about the HathiTrust and DPLA open ebooks partnership, click here.