DPLA & Ebooks

Open Ebooks

Open Ebooks

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

The Open eBooks initiative was announced by President Obama at a ConnectED event that was held at Anacostia Library in Washington, DC on April 30, 2015.

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.

Open eBooks adds to existing efforts to help kids develop a love of reading and discovery by making eBooks available to children and youth from low-income families.

Follow Open eBooks on social media and sign up for the mailing list.

About the Open Ebooks Initiative

What is Open eBooks?

Open eBooks is an app containing thousands of popular and award-winning titles that are free for children from low-income households. These eBooks can be read without checkouts or holds. Children from low-income families can access these eBooks, which include some of the most popular works of the present and past, using the Open eBooks app and read as many as they like without incurring any costs. The goal of Open eBooks is to encourage a love of reading and serve as a gateway to children reading even more often, whether in school, at libraries, or through other eBook reading apps.

NYPL created the app enabling children to read eBooks on a wide variety of devices, including tablets donated as part of the President’s ConnectED initiative and on smartphones increasingly used by Americans at all income levels.

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides access to millions of brand new, high quality print books and other educational resources to classrooms and programs serving children in need. First Book is providing full access to Open eBooks to every educator in its Network, and will distribute access codes for Open eBooks to educators serving children in need at fbmarketplace.org/openebooks.

DPLA’s national network of librarians and cultural heritage organizations is helping to coordinate books for inclusion in Open eBooks. In summer 2015, DPLA issued a call for interested librarians and school media specialists to apply for the opportunity to be a part of the inaugural Curation Corps. DPLA evaluated over 140 compelling applications from across the country and selected nine passionate individuals who represent a broad range of expertise and a commitment to serving low-income and diverse populations. The DPLA Curation Corps 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.

How are the eBooks selected?
Librarians coordinated by the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) will curate the collection to ensure a diverse, compelling, and appropriately targeted set of thousands of titles—something for every child to read, learn from, and enjoy.

Why eBooks?
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. 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 is intended to complement 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 will be immediately available, and there will be no holds queues.

Who will be able to use the app?
The app will be available to low-income youth who have an adult person registered with First Book.

The project partners are also exploring, creating, and releasing an open version of the app with open access content available to all; these materials will also be available through the Digital Public Library of America’s website.

What publishers committed to provide eBooks for students in low-income families?
Below is the list of the contributing publishers:

  • Bloomsbury: Providing unlimited access to over 1,000 of its most popular titles.
  • Candlewick: Providing unlimited access to all relevant children’s and young-adult eBook titles in their catalog.
  • Cricket Media: Offering full digital access to all of its market-leading magazines for children and young adults, including Ladybug andCricket.
  • Hachette: Offering access to a robust catalog of their popular and award-winning titles.
  • HarperCollins: Providing a vast selection of their award-winning and popular titles.
  • Lee & Low: Providing unlimited access to over 700 titles from this leading independent publisher of multicultural books.
  • Macmillan: Providing unlimited access to all of the K-12 age-appropriate titles in their catalog of approximately 2,500 books.
  • National Geographic: Providing unlimited access to all of their age-appropriate content.
  • Penguin Random House: Committing to provide an extensive offering of their popular and award-winning books.
  • Simon & Schuster: Providing access to their entire e-catalog of books for children ages 4-14, comprised of 3,000 titles.

What qualifies an adult to register?
Adults who work with low-income youth in libraries, schools, shelters and clinics, out-of-school programs, military family programs, early childhood programs, and other capacities can qualify for credentials for Open eBooks through First Book.

For example, a teacher at a school at which 70 percent or more of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch will be able to receive credentials for the Open eBooks system. The Open eBooks registration will be linked to the teacher/caregiver, not to individual readers.

How will it work?
Low-income youth will have unlimited access to titles in the app. To get access to the app, they—or an adult working with them—will download the app and enter credentials provided by a person registered with First Book to enable access to the eBooks.

How will low-income kids access the eBooks?
Youth can access eBooks through their school or library-loaned devices as well as their family’s devices. More and more families either own or have local access to devices on which eBooks can be read. A recent Pew Internet survey showed that more than half of those earning less than $30,000 per year have a smartphone capable of reading an eBook, and more than a quarter have tablets. Still more can access and borrow e-reading devices through their local school and library, a trend that complements this program. For many of these families and students, smartphones and tablets are their primary internet access method, and they often use locations such as public libraries and schools for Wi-Fi access—where they will be able to download the books in this program, as well as check out physical books. Open eBooks can dramatically alter the reading landscape by providing access to books through millions of devices already in the hands of young people and their families.

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) and is made possible by the generous contributions of publishers, with content support from Baker & Taylor. Elements of the project have been supported by grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and commitments from publishers through the ConnectED initiative.

What platforms will the Open eBooks app be available on?
Initially the app will be available on iOS and Android. Subsequent versions will be optimized to support as many open platforms as possible. For example, there will be a web-optimized version and one for Nook. The partners are exploring the option of making the app available on devices that require proprietary formats.

What platform will Open eBooks run on?
The Open eBooks project leverages the free and open source Library Simplified app developed by the New York Public Library and ten other public library partners.

Will it work for people who are print-disabled?
Yes. Built with Readium’s rendering engine, the Open eBooks App will take advantage of the accessibility features that are native to EPUB3.

Does “unlimited access” mean the books will be free of Digital Rights Management?
Low-income youth will have unlimited access to titles in the app. The contributed eBooks will include Digital Rights Management software.

How will users’ privacy be protected and respected?
Adults will apply to First Book on behalf of the populations of young people they serve. Personally identifiable information about users will only be captured through the First Book’s registration process. (Please see First Book’s privacy policy). Children using the app will not need to provide any personally identifiable information, such as an email address.

Will individual readers’ activity be tracked?
No, individual readers activity will not be tracked. Reading will be tracked anonymously and in the aggregate. A student’s privacy is paramount and the partners will work tirelessly to ensure that student privacy is maintained at all times.

Will this initiative teach digital literacy?
While this initiative is not focused on teaching digital literacy skills, the application will be 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 help curate the titles for Open eBooks. To learn more about how to get involved, visit: http://dp.la/info/get-involved/dpla-ebooks/dpla-collection-curation-corps

DPLA will also be working with our Hub Network and other organizations to create a companion collection that is truly open and free to all. In additional to Public Domain favorites we will seek out regional stories from our state based DPLA partners, and captivating titles from our content partners, HathiTrust, Biodiversity Library and others. The DPLA Youth Ebook program, or DPLAY, will also work with authors and publishers that have current open content that they wish to contribute without limitation to this open collection

Questions about Open eBooks? Email us.