Digital Public Library of America unveils a pilot program to test a new model for a library-centered ebook marketplace

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) unveiled this week a pilot program to test a new model for a library-owned and library-centered ebook marketplace for popular ebooks, together with free public domain and openly-licensed ebooks. The DPLA Exchange (exchange.dp.la), will allow staff at six pilot libraries to select ebooks from over a hundred thousand licensed titles and thousands more that are openly-licensed. The new program will be administered through a partnership with LYRASIS, which will provide the hosting and other technology resources.

The launch of the Exchange represents a major milestone in the DPLA ebook pilot announced earlier this year. The goal of the program is to demonstrate how DPLA can help libraries maximize access to ebooks for their patrons. For the pilot, DPLA sought out a mix of library types including a state library, a consortium, and both a large public library and one serving smaller and rural populations. The  pilot libraries include: Alameda County Library (CA); Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (PA); Connecticut State Library (CT); Califa Library Group (CA, KS); St. Mary’s County Library (MD) and Yavapai Library Network (AZ). After a preliminary period working with these selected libraries, DPLA will explore expanding the Exchange to more institutions.

“We are eager to explore the great possibilities for accessing high-quality and cost-effective e-content inherent in this Exchange,” said Michael Blackwell, Director of St. Mary’s County Library and project manager for implementing Library Simplified in Maryland. “Even a small and largely rural library system like mine is likely to have more content that is easier for users to access. We are grateful to DPLA for their pioneering work in making this vision a reality.”

One of the goals of the Exchange is to make it easier for libraries to add open and diverse collections from multiple sources to their e-content collections. Pilot libraries will soon be able to offer open content alongside purchased publisher content, including: public domain classics; Creative Commons titles, including children’s books in multiple languages; and open educational resources spanning the humanities and STEM subjects.

“The DPLA Exchange offers a much-needed utility for acquiring and managing digital content from a wide variety of sources. We are excited to use the Exchange to further diversify our eResource offerings,” said Toby Greenwalt, Director of Digital Strategy and Technology Integration at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

The DPLA Exchange is one piece of an emerging open architecture for library ebooks connected by the standard Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS) protocol and the enhanced Open Distribution for Libraries (ODL) protocol. This openness allows libraries to curate and serve e-content from a variety of licensed and open sources through the user experience of their choice. To accomplish this, DPLA will be partnering with LYRASIS, one of the oldest non-profit organizations serving libraries in the United States, to provide a multi-tenant hosted Library Simplified software solution, developed by The New York Public Library. The software provides library staff an administrative panel to edit metadata, blend content from the DPLA Exchange and other sources, and curate the collection. By providing a hosting solution, libraries that do not have the technical infrastructure or capacity to run Library Simplified can still participate in the DPLA exchange. Over the coming months, the e-content collections of each pilot library will become available to patrons in SimplyE (available for iOS and Android) and will also be available in other OPDS readers when integrated.

This work to improve access to widely read ebooks is made possible through the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Many members of the DPLA community have also contributed to this effort, so we want to thank you, our community, for your help and ask you to join us in celebrating the launch of this national library-owned e-content marketplace, the DPLA Exchange.