Note: For background on the Open eBooks initiative see our post from April 30, 2015 when the project was announced by President Obama.
From Today’s Announcement (via DPLA):
Open eBooks, a new initiative and e-reader app that will make thousands of popular, top-selling eBooks available to children in need for free, is launching today. First Lady Michelle Obama is releasing a video today raising awareness of the new opportunity for children. The initiative is designed to address the challenge of providing digital reading materials to children living in low-income households, and offers unprecedented access to quality digital content, including a catalog of eBooks valued at more than $250 million.
The initiative’s partners — Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), First Book, and The New York Public Library (NYPL), with content support from digital books distributor Baker & Taylor — created the app, curated the eBook collection, and developed a system for distribution and use. They received financial support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and content contributions from major publishers. National Geographic announced today that they will provide all of their age-appropriate content to the app, joining publishers Bloomsbury, Candlewick, Cricket Media, Hachette, HarperCollins, Lee & Low, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster, who made commitments providing thousands of popular and award-winning titles last year.
The books in the Open eBooks collection were selected by the DPLA Curation Corps, which was established to ensure a diverse, compelling, and appropriately targeted set of thousands of titles—something from which every child could read, enjoy, and learn. The Curation Corps was selected through a competitive process from a pool of more than 140 applicants from across the country, and they bring their extensive experience helping children select titles in school and public libraries.
Adults who work with children in need through libraries, schools, shelters and clinics, out-of-school programs, military family services, early childhood programs and other capacities can qualify for Open eBooks credentials by first signing up with First Book and then requesting Open eBooks access for the children they serve.
Students can download the free Open eBooks app to their individual devices from the App Store or Google Play and enter their access code to start enjoying Open eBooks.
In the future, the partners will expand the initiative by adding to the collection with new and enhanced content from publishers and public domain titles; broadening the network of Title I schools, preschools, libraries, and other programs; incorporating new features into the app; and researching and sharing the effort’s impact and best practices.
Access and Equality
The Open eBooks initiative is a significant step toward more equitable digital access for all U.S. residents, addressing the need for free, quality digital content for children in pre-kindergarten through high school. Specifically targeting youth in need, Open eBooks aims to ensure that any device can be enjoyed as a tool to deepen a child’s love of reading.
The Open eBooks Collection
The catalog of content in the Open eBooks initiative includes contributions of the most exciting, top-selling titles from publishers. Using Open eBooks, children will be able to build their own virtual collection of favorites and access single titles. The major publishers have committed to make thousands of popular and award-winning titles available to students over a three-year period include: Bloomsbury, Candlewick, Cricket Media, Hachette, HarperCollins, Lee & Low, Macmillan, National Geographic Kids, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster.
Snapshot of the Open eBooks Initiative
Each partner has made, and will continue to make, a unique contribution to the success of this initiative:
The app: The New York Public Library developed the app that allows users to easily access the full text and illustrations of thousands of titles generously contributed by publishers.
The distribution services: Baker & Taylor provided support with publisher relations, content management and the digital distribution technology.
The eBook collection: The Digital Public Library of America recruited and enlisted a team of expert librarians to curate the collection to ensure a diverse, compelling, and appropriately targeted set of thousands of titles—something for every child at any age and reading level to read, learn from, and enjoy.
Reaching the children: First Book, a non-profit social enterprise that provides books and educational resources to classrooms and programs serving kids in need, will tap into its network of more than 225,000 schools and programs to reach children in Title I schools, Head Start programs, military families, after school or community programs, and others serving low-income families.
The Open eBooks app is available through Title I and Title I-eligible schools as well as libraries, preschools, and community after school programs serving a minimum of 70 percent children in need. The program will also be available through schools and programs serving children whose families are enlisted in the armed forces, or serving special needs children.
How do programs and classrooms get started?
The Open eBooks initiative site, at www.openebooks.net, has full program instructions, including Frequently Asked Questions and links to program registration. From there, qualifying educators, librarians, community program directors, and others working with low-income children and youth must register their organization with First Book. Next, users will request a code and PIN combination for every student they serve or device available, and they should indicate the student’s grade level from one of three categories: elementary, middle or high school.
Qualifying educators will be able to obtain enough codes to cover all of the students that they serve. Codes will correspond to Open eBooks Elementary Collection (for PreK – Grade 4), Open eBooks Middle School Collection (for Grades 5 – 8), Open eBooks High School Collection (for Grades 9 – 12). An All Ages code will also be available.
The registrant will receive a confirmation email with the codes and a letter for families and caregivers with instructions on how to download the Open eBooks app and input the code and PIN combination for their child.
The app requires a device with an iOS 8.0 or later operating system or Android equivalent.
The Open eBooks app allows users to instantly borrow up to 10 eBooks at a time to their digital device.
Each borrowed eBook will be available for 56 days before it must be renewed, or the eBook will be automatically returned. Because of this automatic return process, there are no late fees or penalties for Open eBooks users. Students and their families can choose eBooks based on the topics that get them excited about reading and learning, and sort by reading level, grade level, or title. The app can be used anywhere with an Internet connection.
The First Book Help Team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (866) 732-3669 (8am – 6pm EST).
Open eBooks FAQs
Includes question on selection, platforms, publishing partners, etc.)
Update: Additional Comments from DPLA
1. We asked DPLA about not finding direct links to the required app for iOS/Android.
Response From DPLA
We are not providing a direct link to the app because the program requires a registration process first. An adult must first register with First Book, after which they will receive a download link and access codes.
A sentence pointing this out on the app info page would help avoid any possible confusion.
2. We Asked About Obtaining a Copy of Any Guidelines, Policies Used in Developing the Collection.
Response from DPLA
The Curation Corps followed best practice when selecting books, often choosing ebook versions of the print ones they selected in their libraries. Their guiding principle was one of inclusion; we are striving to build a collection that represents a wide variety of voices and diverse perspectives, in order to provide titles that inspire kids in need.
3. We asked about the original DPLA blog post about the project mentioning thecollection would include items from “DPLA’s extensive collection of openly available content as well as contemporary titles from publishers.”
However, the open content is not mentioned in today’s launch announcement.
Response from DPLA
Open access ebooks are not included in this release. Look for them in future releases.
Learn more his new blog post by DPLA’s Executive Director Dan Cohen, about the project and other DPLA ebook initiatives.