DPLA & Ebooks
About Open eBooks
Open eBooks is an app containing thousands of popular and award-winning titles that are free for kids from in-need communities. Open eBooks launched in February 2016 with the support of the White House, including a video from First Lady Michelle Obama. In the ten months since launch, Open eBooks has received overwhelming feedback from teachers, librarians and students praising the initiative.
These eBooks can be downloaded immediately with no holds and no late fees. Children from in-need families can access these eBooks, which include some of the most popular works of the present and past, reading as many as they want without cost using the Open eBooks app. Titles were selected by DPLA’s Curation Corps of school and youth librarians.
The initiative is designed to address the challenge of providing digital reading materials to kids in need, and offers unprecedented access to a catalog of eBooks valued at more than $250 million. While Internet access and device availability remain major hurdles in closing the digital divide, there are encouraging trends showing improved access to mobile devices for low-income youth. Former President Barack Obama announced this non-governmental program in support of the ConnectED initiative, a multi-pronged effort designed to provide all youth with access to high-quality digital learning tools.
A coalition of literacy, library, publishing and technology partners joined together to make the Open eBooks program possible. The initiative’s partners — Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), First Book, and The New York Public Library (NYPL), with content support from digital books distributor Baker & Taylor — created the app, curated the eBook collection, and developed a system for distribution and use. They received financial support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and content contributions from major publishers.
Frequently Asked Questions
For a full list of FAQs, visit the Open eBooks Help Center.
How is DPLA supporting Open eBooks?
DPLA’s national network of librarians and cultural heritage organizations is coordinating books for inclusion in Open eBooks. DPLA oversees the Curation Corps, a group of librarians and school media specialists who applied their knowledge and professional skills to shape a compelling collection that is diverse, exciting, and age-appropriate so that every child has a book to read and enjoy. They are passionate individuals who represent a broad range of expertise and a commitment to serving low-income and diverse populations.
DPLA also helps to manage publisher relationships and provides marketing and outreach through its national library network.
This initiative provides an additional pathway for students to access reading materials and read widely. It complements, but does not replace, existing infrastructure and programs that provide access to physical books. The initiative provides content for students to access on donated devices and the smartphones increasingly available at home. Ebook reading is growing rapidly and should be available to all children and youth, regardless of family income.
How does Open eBooks relate to other projects that provide access to eBooks?
The Open eBooks initiative complements other free eBook/reading projects, as well as the services of public libraries across the country. In contrast to several other projects, it makes current, trending books available from the publishers rather than relying solely on public domain works. With Open eBooks all content is immediately available, with no holds queues.
Is this a government program?
No, this is not a government program. The initiative is a partnership between three existing nonprofits (NYPL, DPLA and First Book), with content support from Baker & Taylor and login support from Clever. It is made possible by the generous contributions of publishers. Elements of the project have been supported by grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Does this initiative teach digital literacy?
While this initiative is not focused on teaching digital literacy skills, the application is a useful resource for a range of libraries and schools in their ongoing efforts to teach digital literacy.
My library isn’t a part of DPLA. How can I participate?
Your library does not need to be a part of DPLA to gain access to Open eBooks or to serve on the Curation Corps. Follow us on social media for calls for volunteers. To see if your library qualifies and to get started, visit http://openebooks.net/getstarted.html.
Questions about Open eBooks? Email us.