Major Publishers Contribute to Open eBooks Initiative

In News by Dennis Abrams

Image - iStockphoto: Solovyova

Image – iStockphoto: Solovyova

By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2

Just launched, the Open eBooks initiative is described by the Digital Public Library of America as new program and e-reader app that will make thousands of popular, top-selling ebooks available to low-income children free of charge.

The initiative offers access to quality digital content, including a catalog of ebooks valued at more than $250 million.

At a “Kids’ Town Hall” held by the White House in April 2015, US President Barack Obama announced a nongovernmental ebooks effort in support of the ConnectED Initiative—an effort designed to provide youth with access to high-quality digital learning tools. Since its launch, more than 20 million students reportedly have been connected to high-speed broadband in their schools and libraries, and millions more are said to be taking advantage of its free private sector resources.

Open eBooks aims to complement digital infrastructure by providing an opportunity for children to have a world-class e-library accessible at home.

The Open eBooks program is made possible by a coalition of literacy, library, publishing, and technology partners. The 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. Financial support has been provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) with content contributions from major publishers, thanks to the contributions of the ebook platform delivery service, AXIS 360 from Baker & Taylor.

Among instances of publisher engagement:

  • Bloomsbury: Access to more than 1,000 titles
  • Candlewick: Access to relevant children’s and YA titles
  • Cricket Media: Digital access to its magazines for children and young adults, including Ladybug and Cricket
  • Hachette: Access to a catalog of titles
  • HarperCollins: Access to a major selection of titles
  • Lee & Low: Access to more than 700 titles in its multicultural collection
  • Macmillan: Access to K-12 age-appropriate titles
  • National Geographic: Access to age-appropriate content
  • Penguin Random House: Access to a selection of titles
  • Simon & Schuster: Access to some 3,000 titles for children 4 to 14

Adults can qualify for Open eBooks credentials if working with children in need through libraries, schools, shelters and clinics, out-of-school programs, military family services, early childhood programs and other capacities. They sign up with First Book and then request Open eBooks access for the children they serve. Students can then download the free Open eBooks app to their individual devices from the App Store or Google Play and enter their access code to begin accessing Open eBooks.

Open eBooks

In a blog post DPLA Executive Director Dan Cohen writes:

“Qualified kids will be able to read any of these ebooks on a whim, and at the same time, unlike with apps that require a reader to check a book back in before it can be read by someone else. This is truly “all you can read” for children in low-income areas of the United States.

In other statements:

  • Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book: “The Open eBooks initiative recognizes the critical need for books—in all forms—among children growing up in families in need. We’re proud to support this ground-breaking effort to put high quality digital content into the hands of those who need it most, and to welcome the teachers and program leaders seeking access to these resources into the largest national network of educators serving kids in need.”
  • IMLS Director Kathryn K. Matthew: “This program is the result of an extraordinary public-private partnership, which could not have been made possible without the support of many committed partners, particularly those in our libraries who really stepped forward to help move this vision into reality. Digital books open new doors to learning opportunities for students and can underpin brighter educational futures. IMLS is very proud to be a part of this unique initiative.”
  • George Coe, President and CEO of Baker & Taylor: “We hope that by donating our technology to this innovative program, we help expand access to information and create new reading opportunities for school-age children throughout America.”

To learn more, click here.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.