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


  1. My mind boggles at the untapped potential of digital libraries.

    Folks should be able to Kickstart a neighbourhood revolution.

    1. As much as I hate DRM, there is not another way right now for libraries to lend a single copy at a time like the paper model they are trying to replicate. Also no way to force returns of overdue copies.  Without it a library would just be 1990’s Napster. Which is not a bad thing in my mind as a library professional, but I can see most publishers crying a river.

      1. We really need libraries (and publishers too) to join the conversation on how we’re going to structure things now that there’s no need to track individual copies or have them returned, or have libraries serve small, geographically based constituencies.

        If they stick their heads in the sand on the issue, internet public libraries will still (and already are) get built, just without their concerns addressed.

        1. Well in the long run, I don’t think the economies of artificial scarcity will hold up. Authors and publishers will just have to find alternative streams of revenue outside the outdated ideas of ‘copies’ and restricted/limited access to information.

  2. San Jose libraries has e-books,  and e-magazines.   I cannot for the life of me figure it all out.    The mags seem to be pdf, but not really,   and the books have to go through a checkout from a 3rd party cart

    If the folks in CO can truly figure it out?  it would be smoking cool and bad-ass

    Just sayin

  3. There is much more technical information here. It appears that the DRM is applied by the library using Adobe Content Server. This is the “industry standard DRM” that the summary is talking about. 

    The article also states “Lastly and most importantly, we’ve established agreements with publishers to allow DCL to purchase and manage the digital rights for e-books.” This seems to mean that the publisher wouldn’t allow the library to offer an ebook unless it were encumbered by DRM applied by the publisher or by the library. In this case, by the library.

    Even more information about how the library works with publishers is here.

    1.  Thank you. Because of your link I was able to find out their policy vis a vis CC-licensed works: they can and are quite willing do non-DRM too.

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