It’s taken nearly four years, but the time has finally come for the Digital Public Library of America–a nonprofit, grassroots organization aimed at better access to ebooks for all readers–to launch its pilot program. Planned for this fall, DPLA will be lending ebooks in what it hopes is a streamlined, non-proprietary and vendorless platform.
While ebook lending has grown fast among US public libraries, the process is not always seamless. Book discovery, borrowing, and consumption must happen within the provider’s app or website. DPLA wants to create a process that isn’t as specific, and one that works with a broader range of content producers for better access to ebooks.
According to DPLA, “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.”
The goal? DPLA’s plan will help libraries provide ebooks with no further costs than the content. As it stands, libraries budget to purchase physical books for their shelves, and DPLA wants to ensure that there are no higher costs associated with providing the ebook edition of the book. As for the upcoming launch of their lending solution, they’re going small out the gate in order to get a better sense of how their process works for all of the stakeholders involved.
“Through the pilot, set to launch in early fall, DPLA will manage technology solutions for 3-5 large public libraries and consortia.”