Update on DPLA’s discussions with Amazon Publishing

By Michele Kimpton, December 4, 2020.
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News emerged this week that, as part of DPLA’s work to expand access to digital materials, we have been in talks with Amazon Publishing about making their titles available to libraries through the DPLA Exchange. While these are just talks at this point, I wanted to take a moment to provide an update on this work.

At DPLA our mission is to maximize access to information and to ensure that in the digital age knowledge becomes more, not less, accessible. One way we work toward that is by expanding access to ebooks and audiobooks through the SimplyE ebooks platform, founded by NYPL, and the DPLA Exchange, a non-profit ebook and audiobook marketplace. The DPLA Exchange, paired with SimplyE, allows libraries to expand their digital offerings through a library-owned and managed solution to purchase, organize, and deliver ebooks and audiobooks. The DPLA Exchange helps libraries live up to their mission of providing access to knowledge and information for all. As the borrowing of physical books has been limited by the pandemic, many libraries have seen a 40 to 50 percent increase in digital lends, making clear that ensuring access to digital resources for everyone has never been more critical.

DPLA is committed to maximizing readers’ access to a diverse range of ebooks and audiobooks, protecting patron privacy, and putting libraries in control of selecting and curating content. Over the past year, we’ve worked with publishers such as Workman, Abrams, and IPG to develop a variety of licensing models that serve the interests of both libraries and authors. These include 40 x 10 concurrent,  unlimited one-at-a-time, and 5 concurrent loans at 1/4 the price. In some cases, the DPLA Exchange offers up to three licensing models for a single book, which gives libraries the flexibility to keep one copy perpetually on the virtual shelf while lending out multiple copies of in-demand titles simultaneously. (See an example here.) We intend to build on this record of developing flexible licensing going forward, with Amazon and other publishers. 

As part of our work to expand access and grow the range of titles available to our partner libraries, we have been in discussions to make Amazon-published ebooks available to libraries and their patrons. We are excited about the possibility of enabling readers to access titles that previously have been available only for purchase. As Michael Blackwell of St. Mary’s County Library and Readers First wrote earlier this week, “If Amazon would provide the ebooks and perhaps audiobooks to launch through DPLA’s Content Exchange, which uses the open source SimplyE app, this could be a wonderful and important development for library readers.”

Any agreement we develop, with Amazon or anyone else, will, like our previous publisher agreements, be embedded in library values: access, equity, and patron privacy. Any titles made available to us will be made accessible in EPUB format through the DPLA Exchange and served to patrons via the SimplyE app. We are discussing an array of licensing models that would both be beneficial to authors and serve libraries.

We will share more information about this project when and if we come to an agreement. In the meantime, if you’d like more information about the DPLA Ebooks program, SimplyE, or the DPLA Exchange, please email me. You can also learn more about SimplyE and see a demonstration here

DPLA’s ebook work is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation