Digital Public Library of America Launches DPLA Bookshelf, An Easy Way to Browse over a Million Books

By DPLA, October 24, 2013.
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October 24, 2013

Boston, MA – At its DPLAfest–taking place on October 24-25 in Boston—the Digital Public Library of America introduced a new way to browse over a million online books it has added to its collection. DPLA Bookshelf lets the user scroll a visual representation of a bookshelf that provides all the instantaneous power the digital world provides.

When a user of the DPLA site searches for books, the results are displayed as books on a bookshelf; the shelf is shown as a vertical stack so that the titles and authors are more easily readable on their spines. The width of the book represents the actual height of the physical book, and its thickness represents its page count. The spine is colored with one of ten depths of blue to “heatmap” how relevant the work is to the reader’s search.

When a reader clicks on one of the books, additional information about it is displayed to its right. The reader can launch the e-book with the click of a button. Or, he or she can explore further by clicking on one of the subjects under which the book has been categorized. This replaces the existing shelf with a shelf containing all the other books in the DPLA collection categorized under that same subject.

Further, when a reader clicks on a book, the DPLA Bookshelf displays thumbnails of images within the DPLA collection related to that book’s subject areas. Clicking on a thumbnail displays the image and additional information about it.

DPLA Bookshelf was created by the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, based on its Stacklife project. With the help of a Beta Sprint grant from the DPLA, the group had created an earlier version that mashed up several book sites, including the DPLA’s book offerings.

Dan Cohen, DPLA Executive Director, said, “We knew that when we announced the addition of a large number of books to the DPLA collection that we would have to find an easy, yet powerful, way for our users to browse the collection. This creative new interface adds to our discovery portal the most familiar of library metaphors: a quickly scannable shelf full of books.”

The DPLA front-end, including Bookshelf, is an Open Source project (


About the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

The Digital Public Library of America strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. Since launching in April 2013, it has aggregated over 5.0 million items from over 1,000 institutions. The DPLA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit.

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