Open eBooks Launched

Wednesday, February 24th saw the launch of the Open eBooks program. Aimed at helping the neediest students in the country, this initiative promises to bridge the digital content divide. Teachers and others who offer programs for the economically disadvantaged, special education or disabled children can get codes to distribute. Children with codes can  access some 10,000 titles for free on smartphones and tablets.

Launching the initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama said “For so many of us, books opened our minds to a world of possibility. Unfortunately, right now, millions of children in America don’t have that chance because they don’t have adequate access to the books they need to learn and dream. The new Open eBooks app will change that.”

While they may have to think of novel ways to get reading devices to the children, librarians may be able to make use of this program. If program participants are 70% or over in one of the groups served, they can be provided access. My library has programs and partnerships with Head Start and Judy Center (it's a Maryland thing) kids, and we are alerting our partners and looking at providing tablets to give access.  This program is part of the ConnectED initiative, and any library that has taken the ConnectED Challenge might make plans to help.

ReadersFirst thanks the Open eBooks founding partners:  Digital Public Library of America, The New York Public Library, First Book, digital books distributor Baker & Taylor (on whose platform the app is based), and financial supporters the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  Also worthy of thanks are the publishers who have donated content:

  • Bloomsbury: Providing unlimited access to over 1,000 of its most popular titles.
  • Candlewick: Providing unlimited access to all relevant children’s and young-adult eBook titles in their catalog.
  • Cricket Media: Offering full digital access to all of its market-leading magazines for children and young adults, including Ladybug and Cricket.
  • Hachette: Offering access to a robust catalog of their popular and award-winning titles.
  • HarperCollins: Providing a vast selection of their award-winning and popular titles.
  • Lee & Low: Providing unlimited access to over 700 titles from this leading independent publisher of multicultural books.
  • Macmillan: Providing unlimited access to all of the K-12 age-appropriate titles in their catalog of approximately 2,500 books.
  • National Geographic: Providing unlimited access to all of their age-appropriate content.
  • Penguin Random House: Committing to provide an extensive offering of their popular and award-winning books.
  • Simon & Schuster: Providing access to their entire e-catalog of books for children ages 4-14, comprised of 3,000 titles.

We can't think of a better gift than the gift of reading.  Let's hope this initiative will be a step in publishers, content providers, and libraries  working together more closely to improve existing library eBook models. That thanks (and wish being) given, what are your thoughts on this initiative?  I hope you share the news, and comment to us!

Michael Blackwell, Director, St Mary's County Library