Last month a huge step toward getting every child in America access to amazing books was taken with the official launch of Open eBooks! The White House announced the news to the excitement of librarians, educators and families across the United States on February 24th. Open eBooks is part of the White House ConnectED Initiative which aims to increase access to digital resources as a component of enriching K-12 education. You can read the official press release here.
The project is made possible through a partnership with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), the New York Public Library, Baker and Taylor, First Book, and made possible by generous commitments of publishers with funding support provided in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. What a great example of many institutions coming together for a greater cause!
The Open eBooks app is now available for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. This app provides access to thousands of free eBooks, including many award-winning and popular titles, to youth in low-income communities via their smartphone or tablet. The app not only provides access to children across the country, but also provides access to children on military bases! To get access to the app youth, or an adult working with them, can download the app and enter credentials provided by a person registered with First Book to enable access to the eBooks.
So how do you get access? If you work at a library that serves at least 70% of children from low-income families, and your library hosts a program specifically focused on supporting these youth, you may register with First Book here. Eligibility can be determined by a variety of factors, including the E-Rate of your library or Title I eligibility of the neighborhood school. After you are registered, you can request access codes for Open eBooks through First Book, whose Marketplace is the eBook distributor for the project. You can request as many codes as you would like for each collection of Open eBooks. Once you have your codes, you can distribute the codes to the children or caregivers to use with the Open eBook app on their personal devices.
Some great features include the ability to read without checkouts or holds, which makes access to reading materials even easier for users. Youth can borrow up to 10 books at a time and replace each book with a new book as many times as they’d like.
Did you know that you can help choose the next round of eBooks for Open eBooks? The DPLA Curation Corps is a group of librarians and other information professionals who help coordinate books for inclusion in the program. The DPLA is currently accepting applications to for the second class of Curation Corps members! You can find more information about getting involved and how to apply here. The deadline to apply is April 1st!
The goal of Open eBooks is to grow a love of reading and hopefully encourage children to read more often, either through using their local library, at school, or by using another eBook reading app. Even if you won’t have the ability to distribute codes at your library, you can still spread the great news and help to make your community aware of this awesome project. I can’t wait to see this program grow and expand!
Nicole Lee Martin is a Children’s Librarian at the Rocky River Public Library in Rocky River, OH and is writing this post for the Children and Technology Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.