An ALA Presentation by Internet Archive: "Making Your Library a Digital Library by 2020"

Brewster Kahle and Wendy Hanamura Internet Archive (IA) reported progress in the Open Libraries Project, an initiative of great interest to library e-content aficionados.

The IA currently offers three million ebooks, in addition to many other formats including audio files and television shows.

Most of the eBook titles date prior to 1923 and are in public domain, but some 540,000 titles are more recent titles and usually copyright orphaned. IA is apprehensive about the nearly century of 1923 to present, often out-of-print and difficult to find in physical format, in danger of being lost forever, and certainly not available and in way preserved digitally. Many of the these titles can still be found on library shelves, but nowhere else: even publishers often have no remaining print copies. E-book licensing and copyright restrictions and lack of library staff and funding resources mitigate against preservation and digital discovery and circulation. Enter the Open Libraries Project.

IA is looking to provide free access to 4 million impactful titles.

If a library has a physical copy of a book, IA will digitize it. Will give the book back. If a small library, and don't have resources, will build a centralized circulation to help distribute.

Partners in/supporters of the project include Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Digital Library Federation, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom "Our Voices" initiative, MIT Press (which is allowing digitization of their complete backlist), Boston Public Library and Houghton-Mifflin on their backlist. Houghton realizes that often only one copy of orphaned backlist titles exists--Boston Pubic. They are worried about preservation. Also worthy of mention is Delaware County Library in Ohio, which has shared its catalog to aid with discovery. Interestingly, as with many non-research libraries, fully a third of Delaware's titles were already digitized. It would seem that a the project already has a great start. Also instrumental are and TASCHA of University of Washington.


How it works--and the part that makes it interesting for ReadersFirst--is as follows. Libraries may pull one copy (if they have multiples) from circulation, have IA digitize it,  have it returned and then hold it back from physical circulation, and thereafter circulate digital copies on a one circ-one user model (i.e., no multi-user access). Libraries with resources may build a digital circ manager of their own, while others will get an assist from IA to foster circ. Alternately, libraries may de-accession a title, send it to IA, and have IA maintain a sole physical copy and handle digital distribution.


This process is interesting from a copyright perspective as an extension of right of first sale and fair use.

Of perhaps even greater RF interest is that IA hopes, Hanamura said, to "Create a delightful reading experience across devices." They are especially interested in software reading capabilities to extend accessibility for the visually impaired and dyslexic. They wish to build interoperable cross-platform systems with library and technology vendors and partners. They already plan to make the titles accessible via the SimplyE app, and libraries that deploy that app either individually or in consortia will be able to take advantage of the titles created in the project, which will foster both ePub and PDF releases.


The 5400,000 in-copyright works that have been digitized and made available to borrow digitally are on the 1 user/1 circ model to suit fair use. The titles are not those currently available via licensing from vendors. The aim is not to supplant such titles but to fill in the vast number of digitally unavailable titles.


IA seeks help in two ways. 


First, they are hoping for a grant with MacArther Foundation for $100 million.  This project is currently one of eight semi-finalists. They are up against fierce competition: for example, curing river blindness. Still, the view this project as a human rights matter:  it ensures knowledge access.  They also hope to build their platform to highlight reader privacy. "Long term free public access to knowledge is vital, and is not being done by Google or Amazon," said Kahle. They will move forward even without the grant, or a part of it, but it would be most helpful.


To make the project viable, they are also looking for 119,000 libraries to come on board to provide content and visibility


The project presents many opportunities. It can vastly increase circulation of materials, making works accessible only through ILL, or, not at all, available nationally. It can provide more equitable access, more room in libraries for people, and save money in ILL expenditures and staff time. It can use technology to read improve accessibility.  It can help ensure preservation, with publishers partnering.


So, how can you help? You can make your library a part by having works digitized by IA and circling them electronically. IA is developing processes to identify which works they might use, so you could de-accession some titles safe in the knowledge they will be preserved by IA. You can encourage ILS vendors to make adaptations to help get the content working in systems. You can encourage readers to suggest what titles they would Iike in the library. Support for the grant is welcome and helpful. You can Tweet your support @internetarchive and #100andChange.

After experiencing the disruptions of the digitization, libraries and our partners are aggressively launching initiatives to ensure discovery, access, and preservation. We live in exciting times. The Open Libraries project has enormous potential to help libraries at little cost to us, especially as it integrates with work such as SimplyE and NISOs's efforts to create API standards. ReadersFirst endorses the project and encourages libraries to find out more.


Breaking News--A Long Awaited Business Model from a Big Publisher

Thanks to RF Friend Andrew Albanese for sharing some great news,

"In a major announcement ahead of this week’s 2017 ALA Annual Conference, HarperCollins has agreed to make a selection of its e-book backlist titles available to public library users on a multi-user lending model."

Yes, you read it right. Something ReadersFirst and the library community as a whole have wanted for a long time is finally happening.

"Starting in July, the publisher will make about 15,000 e-book titles available via hoopla, including works from bestselling authors like Neil Gaiman, Louise Erdrich, and Dennis Lehane. The agreement builds on a 2016 deal that made HarperCollins’ digital audiobook backlist available to library users . . . . It is an enormous step forward for library e-book lending, as HarperCollins becomes the first Big Five publisher to offer e-books to library patrons on a multi-user, on-demand model."

This is indeed welcome news! For too long, library e-book use has been stalled by a lack of flexible business models of precisely this sort. It's a win-win, offering publishers a chance for greater circulation on back list titles and libraries a chance for multi-user access. There will be less waiting for titles. Will other publishers follow? Could high demand front list titles follow? What will it ok like in library catalogs? Great questions. We can hope for continued progress. In the meantime, THANK YOU Harper-Collins! You have once again proven yourself to be willing to experiment to work with libraries for our mutual benefit.  May others follow your example.

Another Exciting E-Book Initiative

This just in from Open Libraries:

We invite you to ASK US ANYTHING--on June 15 from 10-11:30 a.m. PT via YouTubeLive--about Open Libraries, our project to bring 4 million free digital books to learners, libraries and the print disabled. We are 1 of 8 semifinalists for #100andChange--MacArthur's competition to tackle one of the world's big problems.

Help us think big! We will answer your questions, invite your ideas, and share how you or your library can become a Open Libraries partner.

Email us your questions at, tweet them with the #OpenLibrariesAMA or leave a comment in our blog:…/ama-about-openlibraries-our-prop…/

Then tune in to hear your comments and have your questions answered at our:

Live Chat via YouTube Live, Thursday, June 15 from 10-11:30 a.m. PT

Watch at


Brewster Kahle, Founder and Digital Librarian

Wendy Hanamura, Director of Partnerships

John Gonzalez, Director of Engineering

Underground News: The SimplyE Web Reader is Rolled Out

As reported in the New York Times, New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, Queens Library, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Transit Wireless have created a subway train, complete with seats decorated as books, that allows riders to read books onboard. 

However, " . . .you don’t need to be in a library car to take advantage. When you enter a subway station, connect to the Transit Wireless WiFi network available at all underground stations. When you’ve logged on, you’ll see a prompt for, and — voilà — you can start browsing and downloading books, short stories, chapters and excerpts donated by publishers."

“It used to be that you were ‘unplugged’ on the subway, and even though you’re connecting to the wireless now, you’ll still have the sense of being unplugged when reading books,” said Lynn Lobash, manager of reader services for the New York Public Library. “It’s a lot different than the frantic sense of checking your email or being on Twitter.”

The story adds that "You’ll find short reads curated for the quick commutes, and long reads for the farther destinations or delayed rides. You can explore New York stories, children’s titles, young-adult novels or new releases in the 'New & Noteworthy' category."

What the story doesn't add is that this initiative is the public roll-out of the web version of the SimplyE app. Titles launch from a web browser. For librarians interested in improvements to the library e-book experience, this is welcome news indeed. The ability to launch content from a library owned and branded web page, downloading if patrons want to an app, working across vendor platforms, is a good step in simplifying the e-content experience. 

SimplyE for Consortia update and an ALA e-content calendar

Valerie Horton, CEO of MInitex, has provided an update on work on a more academic-oriented version of the SimplyE app.

A quick update on SimplyE for Consortia.  

We are deep in programming work right now.  Minitex is concentrating on adding academic and other features such as bookmarks, citations, and annotation.  After that we will start looking at different methods for supporting pdf formats. Minitex has loaded open textbooks into the app, but this function is not yet ready for testing.  We are also starting the process of setting up test installation with our partners in RAILS (IL), the Massachusetts Library System, and several public library systems in Minnesota.  We'll be back to you soon, seeking input.

In the almost year that SimplyE has been in operations at New York Public Library (NYPL), they have found that allowing librarians to select titles for the swim lanes flattens out the demand curve. This wonderful news means that NYPL can expose independent and local authors to more readers, and lower some of the pressures pushing up high hold queues.  

Brooklyn is now up on SimplyE through NYPL, and quite a few other states and consortia are near to going public.  I expect we’ll be seeing more news on implementation going live soon.

To this, please add that working with Datalogics, Califa (220 California Libraries) and Maryland are making progress on deployment and expect to have live instances launched before the end of summer.

From Michelle Bickert DPLA:

For those of you attending ALA Annual, we have a Wiki page listing meetings and sessions that may be of interest to our community. 


Library e-content continues its march to a better reader experience!

A Thoughtful Look at E-Content Business Models

Cathy Mason, Digital Downloads Administrator for Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML), has taken a thoughtful look at how she gets e-content titles. CML provides hundreds of thousands of digital tiles, and Cathy has wide experience with the advantages and limitations of current buying models.  Here are some of her thoughts:

Here are some buying models I’ve been thinking about that would help our consortium spend our money better and provide a more robust ebook collection for customers.

·         One copy/One user, or forever titles, are not the best models for an active public library.  At our library (Columbus Metropolitan Library) we want to keep things fresh and not archive hundreds of copies of any one title.  Sure we need a fair number of copies when a title first releases but couldn’t that be addressed with some OC/OU copies and a majority of metered access copies?  I’m thinking about the 80/20 rule that I’m seeing in all parts of life.  As an example, I’d like to keep 20% of my copies forever and have 80% metered for 12 months or 26 checkouts.  The goal here is to reach $1/circ. over the long haul.  If the book gets optioned for a movie then I’ll gladly buy more metered access copies to meet the temporary surge in customer demand. 

·         When it comes to holiday books I can’t justify buying anything with a 12 month meter, especially in children’s non-fiction.  This area is a low performer in ebooks for us so we’ll never buy a book that will circ maybe twice in 12 months.  The one exception to my holiday embargo is Christmas romance.  Titles in this area circulate year round.

·         12 month license for someone like Stephen King (with Scribner) or Colleen Hoover (with Simon & Schuster) doesn’t work for us.  For established authors we want to always have some copies, maybe not tons of copies but 5 OC/OU and then we can fill in with metered copies on special occasions.  I can definitely see using the 12 month model for a new author who’s just breaking out, but not tried and true authors.

·         When buying 26 or 52 checkouts, it would be fantastic if we could have the number of checkouts available simultaneously.  If we’re paying for 26 checkouts and we have 10 people on a holds list why not let them all have it at the same time?  I’ll buy more checkouts to meet demand once the initial 26 or 52 are used up.  Using them sequentially mimics physical book circulation models and doesn’t utilize the power and agility of digital content.  It isn’t useful for us to restrict use based on a model that works for physical books and lending when librarians and patrons alike know that there can be simultaneous checkouts. 

·         If a metered model has a set number of checkouts then I would like to pay around $1 per checkout or less.  There’s no guarantee that we’ll use all the checkouts but if we do then $1/checkout or less is preferred.

·         Traditional book vendors like Baker & Taylor and Ingram offer their library customers a price break on most of their books from the big 5 publishers.  Why can’t libraries get this kind of discount from the same publishers in digital format? 

·         I’ve been toying with the idea of copies changing type of meter or model after 6, 12 or 18 months.  For instance, if a title does well and is metered, be it 12 months or 26 checkouts, or whatever, it would be beneficial to be asked if I want to renew some or all of the copies as OC/OU.  Pottermore audiobooks have a 60 month meter which is fantastic but I know I’m going to buy Harry Potter forever and it would be nice to have at least some of our copies as OC/OU and be confident that we’re meeting customer demand with forever copies.

In charging libraries inflated prices publishers are limiting the growth of ebooks.  If I could spend $87 on three or four titles instead of one we could accommodate more customers.  More customers means more demand and thus more spending.  If we can engage more and more customers, ebook usage will go up and authors, libraries and publishers benefit.

Unquestionably, more flexible models for e-book and e-content acquisitions would benefit libraries and ultimately be of greater use to content providers, too. Thanks, very much, Cathy for your thoughtful look at the market.  Gentle readers, your comment comments are welcome! What do you think?  

Another Move Towards Improving E-Book Access

This just in from DPLA.  Interesting news!

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.

VITAL Library Funding at Stake

This post is borrowed from the Maryland Library Association but is appropriate nationally in the USA. At this point, it would be better to call than to use another forum for communication. Millions of dollars in library funding, important projects, and the jobs of many library supporters in the IMLS are at stake. 

If you have already called, please call again! We have only 5 days to act.

Record-Setting Senate Support Needed to Save Federal Library Funding!

If you have visited this page in the last few weeks, you know the President has proposed wiping out all library funding – and the agency, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), that administers much of it – in his initial FY18 budget proposal. You also know thousands of librarians, library supporters, users, vendors and citizens in every Congressional district in the country used the ALA Legislative Action Center and many other channels to insist that their Representative in the House sign two "Dear Appropriator" letters to the Appropriations Committee asking them to preserve funding this year for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program.

One-third of the entire House of Representatives signed each of those Dear Appropriator letters and nearly 170 Members signed at least one — an 18% increase in support for IAL and a record-shattering 64% increase for LSTA. (Visit this House tracker to see whether your Representative in the House signed.)

Now, it’s time for you to break records for support in the U.S. Senate by asking both of your Senators to sign Dear Appropriator letters for LSTA and IAL. Our goal is to put a majority of all 100 Senators on record in support of these critical programs! Check this Senate tracker to see if your Senator signed last year and if they have already agreed to sign this year. If not, we have until just May 19 to convince them to add their names to both the LSTA and IAL letters. There's no time to lose.

Please use ALA's Legislative Action Center today to call, email or tweet (maybe all three?) both of your Senators and ask them to support federal funding for libraries by signing both the “Reed/Collins LSTA” and “Reed/Grassley/Stabenow IAL” Dear Appropriator letters. Many Senators will only sign if their constituents ask them to, so your action is crucial. Let them know why libraries are important to your community and ask them to show their support now.

Let's See Where This Goes

RF looks with great interest on the following development. Open eBooks has been a great platform but not as widely suited for public libraries because of the economic restrictions set in place for access (though libraries serving Title 1 school populations or otherwise economically disadvantaged areas have used it to great effect).  Can DPLA pull off another coup, expanding access with new use  models?  Very intriguing!  Let's see where this goes.  RF will post updates.

Introduction to Upcoming DPLA + Ebooks Work

As part of its core mission of maximizing access to our shared culture, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is working to expand the discoverability, accessibility, and availability of ebooks for the general public. At DPLAfest 2015, many of you joined us as we began a deep exploration of the ebook space. Two years later, and with additional support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, we are taking elements of that work forward.

We are exploring how DPLA may be able to broaden access for users by helping libraries move to an open service architecture. What does maximizing access to ebooks look like? Facilitating discovery of free, open content; unlocking previously gated content through new licensing and/or access models; and facilitating better purchasing options for libraries.

Our vision is to

  • Help libraries find and serve more open content, including open textbooks and other open educational resources (OER).
  • Merge content from multiple paid sources on a single platform and consolidated user interface.
  • Curate content to drive discovery and use of more of libraries existing collection.
  • Experiment with new types and sources of content including local publishing.
  • Empower DPLA to work directly with publishers to secure new and better terms from libraries that will allow them to provide more access at a better value.

While we explore innovative methods to advance the library ebook ecosystem, we’re also making familiar content new again. We are developing a substantial, free, and open collection of widely-read and widely-held ebooks, with a goal of improving discoverability through metadata and curation. Interested in helping? Check out our survey on open content, and watch for a later post for more.

These efforts complement DPLA’s ongoing work in the ebook space as a partner on the Open eBooks initiative. During its first year, K-12 children in need across the United States and its territories downloaded over one million popular and award-winning ebooks for free, without holds.

In the coming weeks we will be sharing more about this ongoing exploration. If you’re joining us in Chicago for DPLAfest 2017, we have two full days of ebook discussions. We invite you to join the conversation. Stay tuned for more updates on DPLA + Ebooks.

More Thoughts on the Supposed Decline of e-books

Jane Friedman, founder and co-editor of The Hot Sheet and columnist for PW, has updated her post about what has become a mainstream media outlet truism: that print book sales are rising and e-book sales are declining. RF has posted on this topic before, but it never hurts to attack fraudulent news, even (or perhaps especially) when the fake is perpetuated by some normally reliable sources.

Friedman says "Most of it is wishful thinking rather than an understanding of what’s actually happening."

RF knows that to be in true in libraries: our digital use continues to rise, while print generally remains flat or declines.

To summarize her points (but better still, do read them):

  • To the extent that any e-book decline is real, it is apparent only in traditional publishing and is largely due to agency pricing
  • To the extent that print is back, thank Amazon and not other or Indie marketers.
  •  The majority of the e-book sales have moved to "non-traditional" publishers
  • While frequently quoted stats suggest e-books make up 25% of print sales, the number is likely closer to 50% of fiction sales.

In short, "Carry a big dose of skepticism, and look at possible underlying agendas, when you hear celebrations about print’s comeback. While I’m not at proclaiming the death of print or traditional publishers, few media outlets have an understanding of the big picture." (Friedman)

Readers want their format of choice delivered in the most convenient way. For some, print may always be their primary, or only, choice. We at RF love ALL forms of reading. But don't let suspicious figures take away from the increasing importance of digital content, especially in libraries, where it is more vital than ever.