eBooks through OpenLibrary.org

A message from State Librarian Judith Ring:

The Internet Archive’s Open Library wants to let your patrons borrow e-books from them. Not just the classic, public domain stuff, but newer and more popular titles. Here is how it works.

After you register, you will get more information and a brief questionnaire. Their form records your library’s name, IP address, physical address, and contact person. You will also send them one hard copy book. You can choose the title.

That book is your patrons’ ticket to the In-Library E-Book Collection. Once your membership is confirmed, you are a Partner Library, and your patrons can visit your library, browse, and borrow any of the titles that you and other Partner libraries have contributed. Your patrons can read these e-books on a library PC or download them to their own PC or e-reader. The loan period is two weeks. At the end of the loan period, the borrowed book expires on the patron’s PC or e-reader.

Anyone can borrow some of Open Library’s eBooks, but only the patrons of Partner Libraries can borrow these e-books. The point of law that makes this work is the “right of first sale.” Here is a layman’s version of the law.

When you legally acquire a physical book, you have the “right of first sale.” You can keep it, lend it, give it away, destroy it, or put it in a vault. Although the right of first sale doesn’t translate well into a digital environment, a combination of “fair use” library exception plus first sale should allow libraries to lend a digital copy, provided the library keeps the physical copy in a vault of some sort while the digital copy is on loan. That way – and this is the key point – only one person has access to “your copy” at any time. After the Internet Archive digitizes your book, they put it in “dark storage” (i.e., a vault) while they circulate the electronic copy.

You need to give them only one book to become a Partner Library. You can give them more, but at some point they will charge you to digitize them. Currently, digitization of the first 10 titles is free.

You must provide your library’s IP address range to the Open Library so that their server will recognize your patrons when they are connecting from within your library. When the Open Library gets a checkout request from a PC that is within your IP address range, they can honor the checkout. If your patron connects to the Open Library from Starbucks – or from home – he is out of luck, because those IP addresses are not on file at the Internet Archive. But, if you have an EZproxy server, your patrons can borrow from home or other locations. The EZproxy server provides a valid IP address when it connects computers.

The State Libraries of all 50 states and the District of Columbia agreed at a Chief Officers of State Library Agencies meeting to work with the Internet Archive by encouraging local libraries in their states to participate in the Open Library In-Library e-book Lending Program.

For more information about the Internet Archive Open Library, view the information found under the heading In-Library Loans.