July 21, 2024

Momentum Builds for DCL’s eBook Model


This article has been amended to clarify eiNetwork libraries’ relationship with the other libraries discussed in this article.

The Douglas County Libraries pioneering model for purchasing ebooks directly from publishers is gaining a significant amount of traction.

Colorado’s Marmot Library Network, Anythink Libraries, and Wake County Public Libraries in North Carolina will all soon begin working with the DCL model. The news comes less than two months after San Mateo-based Califa Group, the largest library network in California, also announced plans to adopt DCL’s library-owned, library-managed ebook model. eiNetwork libraries in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County also recently began working with Marmot, Anythink and WCPL on a branch of the VuFind open source platform for online library catalogs, and are monitoring the work being done on the DCL model, although they do not have any immediate plans to adopt it.

Anythink is one of many systems adopting the DCL Model

And, already this year, DCL has brought several new publishers into the fold, including Dzanc Books, children’s book publishers Gareth Stevens and Crabtree Publishing, educational materials provider Infobase Learning, cooperative publishing house Book View Café, mystery publisher Poisoned Pen Press, and ebook self-publisher Book Brewer.

DCL Director Jamie LaRue said that legal framework documents that DCL developed in conjunction with Mary Minow at LibraryLaw.com have helped facilitate discussions with publishers since January.

“Putting that common-understanding legal framework in place has saved us a lot of time with publishers,” LaRue told LJ. “It always begins when the publisher says ‘well, you just want to give it away, right?’ And we say, ‘No. we attach Digital Rights Management and we restrict [circulation] to one user at a time, just as we have always done.’”

This misunderstanding about ebook circulation at libraries appears to be a common one. In February, after leading an American Library Association delegation to New York to discuss ebook lending with representatives from Penguin, Macmillan, Random House, Simon & Schuster and Perseus, ALA President Molly Raphael noted that “some publishers had the impression that libraries lend to whomever visited their respective websites, thus making collections available virtually worldwide without restriction,” according to an ALA release.

LaRue said assuring publishers that DLC uses the industry-standard Adobe Content Server DRM tools, and that the library system buys multiple copies of ebooks based on demand from their community, makes the arrangement sound more familiar to publishers.

Integrated Vu

The expansion of the DCL ebook model to Marmot, AnyThink, WCPL and eiNetwork was the result of a separate project. In 2011, DCL had begun using VuFind+, a version of the VuFind open source OPAC and library resource portal that Colorado’s Marmot system had enhanced “with modern search capabilities, faceted navigation, location-sensitive holdings displays, social web features, links to the Prospector regional union catalog, and integrated obituary discovery,” Marmot Director Jimmy Thomas wrote in the organization’s latest annual report.

DCL’s developers, naturally, had then begun enhancing VuFind+ to work more seamlessly with all of the new ebooks that they were storing on their own servers.

These enhancements by Marmot and DCL have since been merged into one new version of VuFind+, which was quickly adopted by Anythink, as well as WCPL and eiNetwork. Trying the DCL ebook model at these other libraries is a natural next step.

Thomas said that in a recent conversation he told LaRue, “what you and Douglas County are doing with ebooks is a very cool demonstration project. I’d like to prove that the concept is scalable, I’d like to see if I can make it work with 21 more libraries in the state, in a multi-type consortium setting.”

Ebooks purchased direct from publishers will supplement each library’s existing Overdrive content.

The DCL model has been quick to generate interest throughout the library community, but by virtue of its origin at DCL, Colorado is becoming the nerve center of the growing concept. After Thomas and LaRue shared information about their plans with other groups in the state, the E-voke Committee was formed to focus on “ebooks and their future in Colorado, with an eye open to other forms of E-content (audio, video, other).”

The group includes representatives from DCL, Marmot, the Colorado State Library, the Colorado Library Consortium, the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries, and Auraria Library. Their website, evoke.cvlsites.org, already includes a simple “How to Do It” page, including links to letters, forms and agreements to send to publishers, an annotated, regularly updated list of publishers that have already demonstrated willingness to sell econtent, links to server and ebook authoring support software, and documents detailing technical aspects of the system, such as a recommended server farm layout.

However this movement evolves, Thomas said that he and the rest of the group felt that libraries simply had to stay involved during the rapid growth of the ebook market.

“What’s clear is that we have to do something,” he said. “Whether we make mistakes and get bloodied doing something that’s completely crazy doesn’t matter, because moving forward in this arena is hugely important to readers.”

As LJ has reported, other libraries and organizations are currently considering DCL’s library-owned, library-managed ebook model, including Lyrasis, the State Library of North Carolina, the South Carolina State Library, the Queens Library, the Tampa Bay Library Consortium, and others. LaRue told LJ that a coalition of public libraries in Dallas, and the state librarian of Massachusetts have also recently expressed interest.

Currently, the DCL model still has library systems and multi-type library consortia dealing with publishers on a one-to-one basis. Accustomed to working with distributors, the largest publishers may be unwilling to accept this model. But, as a growing number of libraries test the concept, their aggregate buying power is going to start drawing attention.

“Clearly publishers don’t want to develop a delivery system for just one library at a time,” LaRue said. “They need to know that it’s a model that has gained some traction and has some money behind it. …Everytime somebody comes on line and says they’re interested, we say ‘here’s a list of all the publishers we’ve dealt with.’ So [those publishers] are getting a good boost of business, and they’re seeing that they’re being well respected, and that being in this market means some immediate pickup.”

To hear more about the DCL model, check out Library Journal’s upcoming webcast “eBooks: a New Paradigm in Douglas County, or a New Twist on the Past?” on Tuesday, June 12.

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.


  1. Yes Ebooks have taken a rise lately. They are getting a lot more attention and more and more people are seeking out these types of books.

    Thanks for the great article.

    Jamie :)>