By Michelle Bickert and Micah May

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 open 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. Collection development will be strongly tied to popularity and use in critical realms like education, curated by our nation’s librarians. Ebooks will be formatted in the latest EPUB standards for accessibility and for mobile devices. (Interested in helping? Check out our survey on open content.)

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 ebooks. The ConnectED-inspired initiative has built positive relationships between publishers and libraries, illustrating a successful model for opening selected content to a specific audience. Open eBooks has also united government, nonprofit, and private partners in a common library goal.

In the coming weeks we will be posting more on DPLA’s blog about this ongoing investigation. 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, and are active on ASCLA’s Consortial E-books Interest Group listserv. Stay tuned for more updates on DPLA + Ebooks.