Libraries set out to own their ebooks

Douglas County Libraries, in Colorado, is trying something new: buying eBooks directly from publishers and hosting them on its own platform. That platform is based on the purchase of content at discount; owning—not leasing—a copy of the file; the application of industry-standard DRM on the library’s files; multiple purchases based on demand; and a “click to buy” feature.

Its new DCL Digital Branch is one outcome of this strategy. As of this writing, more than 800 publishers have signed up, and their works are seamlessly integrated into and delivered from the library catalog, rather than from third-party sites.

After integrating the ebooks it owns into its catalog, Douglas County Libraries began installing digital branch hardware and software in six of its Colorado locations in February.

In a physical library, the digital branch features interactive touch-screen technology that allows library patrons to browse digital content from multiple platforms, including eBooks hosted by DCL, Overdrive, 3M and Freegal music. It integrates seamlessly with DCL’s library catalog, patron database, and its mobile app, DCL to Go. This same experience is also available online.

The digital branch allows patrons to view and explore digital content using their hands and eyes the same way they might explore a traditional collection, with added functionality like immediate access to staff recommendations, most popular titles, and new content. Digital branch technology and features will change and improve as Douglas County Libraries’ eContent collection grows and patron use of digital content evolves.

Douglas County Libraries’ model for purchasing eBooks directly from publishers is gaining interest from more and larger publishers, with five more joining just in the last week. DCL’s revolutionary distribution model is attracting not just publishers, but libraries across the nation. Marmot Library Consortium on Colorado’s western slope and Anythink Libraries in Adams County will soon provide eContent hosted by DCL. Other library systems have shown interest as well, from regions including California, New England, New York and New Jersey, and the Colorado State Library has created eVoke, an internet portal for libraries wishing to replicate DCL’s eBook model.

— Monique Sendze, Douglas County Libraries

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