A Look at the State of Ebooks at DPLA ahead of ALA Annual

Posted by John Bracken in June 18, 2018.

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Later this week, the Digital Public Library of America will be in New Orleans for the annual meeting of the American Library Association, where we will be talking about our ebook work and participating in a national ebook summit. We’ve a year’s worth of learnings from our pilot ebook marketplace program to share, as well as details about:

  • Open Bookshelf, a librarian-curated collection of over 1,000 openly-licensed titles, designed for reading on Android, iOS, and other digital devices
  • DPLA Exchange, an ebook marketplace that empowers librarians to curate their own licensed e-content and open books
  • Library Simplified, software that helps librarians manage digital collections, including cloud-hosting built in partnership with LYRASIS
  • SimplyE, a free e-reader app for iOS and Android built on Library Simplified

All that we’ve built has been in collaboration with others: Open Bookshelf has been curated by a team of a dozen librarians from across the country. We’ve built the DPLA Exchange pilot in along with Alameda County Library, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Connecticut State Library, Califa Library Group, St. Mary’s County Library, and Yavapai Library Network. Our work with Library Simplified builds off of the code created and maintained by our colleagues at New York Public Library, and has been in collaboration with LYRASIS. And none of this work would be possible were it not for the support of our founding funder, the  Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

We live in the midst of change so rapid that we often lose sight of it—like the fish that don’t know what water is. Reading on digital devices is a recent behavior. The first ebook readers only became available in 1998, and it’s only in the last decade that they’ve become mainstream. By comparison, human literacy dates back 10,000 years. As educators, librarians, publishers, and citizens, we have a lot to learn about what this shift in form means for how we learn. It’s incumbent on all of us to ensure that the platforms of tomorrow, and policies that will guide our use of them, incorporate and reflect library values. Otherwise, we run the risk that, rather than expanding possibilities, the digital revolution will result in a world in which knowledge is harder, not easier, to attain.

If you’ll be at ALA, come to our session Saturday at 10:30AM for an overview of our work, join us for a reception at Library Make ‘n’ Shake Saturday at 5:00PM, and attend our ebook sessions on Monday. Share your questions, feedback, and ideas with us on Twitter using #DPLAatALA or tweeting to @dpla or @jsb.