DPLA Launching Ebook Pilot

By DPLA, May 15, 2017.
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By DPLA Ebook Consultant Micah May, Director of Business Development and Senior Strategist Michele Kimpton and Ebook Program Manager Michelle Bickert

This is the second in a series of posts about DPLA’s ongoing work to maximize access to ebooks. Check out the first post in this series introducing our plans and learn more about the Sloan Foundation grant funding this work.

At DPLAfest this past April, the DPLA Board of Directors approved a plan to move forward with an ebook pilot aimed at improving access to a broad selection of open and licensed ebooks through market-based methods. We at DPLA are evaluating what we could potentially do from a community and technology perspective to help libraries maximize patron access to ebooks and other e-content. Through the pilot, set to launch in early fall, DPLA will manage technology solutions for 3-5 large public libraries and consortia.

First, some background: US libraries began providing ebooks through OverDrive in 2004. Since then, library ebooks have been provided through siloed, vertically integrated systems in which users can discover and borrow books from a given vendor only in that vendor’s website and apps. In 2012, a group of frustrated library leaders mobilized to form Readers First to fight for a better user experience for their patrons. This grassroots movement has advocated with some success for more open systems and empowered libraries to demand more from e-content vendors. These innovative, library-driven efforts have also led to multiple IMLS-funded grant projects moving us closer to the vision of a national digital platform.

DPLA’s approach to help libraries maximize access to ebooks and other e-content is to work with technology providers, publishers, distributors and public libraries to offer a comprehensive technology solution managed by DPLA. The first component of the solution addresses content acquisition. The second is a curation portal that serves as a circulation manager based on the Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS). We believe helping US libraries move to OPDS-based distribution could greatly expand access for patrons. OPDS is a simple, elegant syndication format based on Atom and HTTP.  It allows libraries to use a standard protocol for the aggregation, distribution, discovery, and acquisition of electronic publications.

Our hope is this solution will enable libraries to move to an open, OPDS-based service architecture without deploying additional software or incurring costs beyond content and DRM fees. Libraries would be able to merge content from various sources, including popular publisher content and free, open content curated by DPLA and others in the community, and serve it through curated user interfaces to drive deeper discovery and thus more use of existing collections.

We will continue update you on our progress with pilot libraries, and related DPLA + Ebooks projects. We will also be sharing our vision for open access content, publisher relationships, and community engagement in future blog posts and announcements.

Questions? Email us.