I listened in on a Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) webinar on July 15, 2015. The conversation centered on the Open Ebooks Initiative (announced by President Obama on April 30, 2015).
In brief, this three-way partnership between the New York Public Library (NYPL), DPLA, and First Book (with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services) seeks to make free ebooks accessible to low-income children between the ages of 0 and 18.
The books will be made available through the NYPL Library Simplified app (available in iOS, Android, and eventually a desktop interface). Institutions seeking to register for the service can sign up today, for free. In general, qualifying institutions include schools, public libraries, or any organization where at least 70% of the children served are low-income or are in free or reduced-cost lunch programs.
At this point, nine publishers have pledged thousands of free books and will continue to offer new content in the future. Participating publishers include all of the Big Five, plus Candlewick Press, Bloomsbury Publishing, Cricket Magazine, and Lee & Low Books (a multicultural publisher). The books are being hosted (again, for free) by Baker and Taylor and served to the Library Simplified app.
DPLA content, which is available under Creative Commons licensing, will also be included. I didn’t quite catch whether the publishers’ titles will be available that way, but I suspect not.
At present, metadata and annotations are available only through the app, not in participating library catalogs. The initiative will include multilingual content in the future. The app offers Readium software that will read (in a mechanical voice) from epub files, so the organizers are thinking about accessibility issues.
A publicity push is planned for early fall.
Kudos to the publishers, Baker and Taylor, NYPL, DPLA, and IMLS for this important effort. There is no smarter investment in our future than getting books in front of kids.