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Writing about Reading: More Library eBook Hosting Expansion

This was originally over on The Digital Reader yesterday, but I wanted to get it posted over here as well, as it’s a pretty big deal.

The field of library-developed ebook platforms has grown by six states, thanks to the upcoming launch of the Amigos eShelf Service from Amigos Library Services, a library consortium based in Texas.

Offering libraries a platform on which to host and check out ebooks, Amigos also takes care of negotiating the rights with publishers.  This means that libraries in Amigos’ service area (Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri) now have the opportunity to purchase and host their ebooks with their library consortium rather than relying solely on a vendor.

The eShelf program is currently in the early release stage. Early adopter libraries have the opportunity to use the service for free for two months in return for providing honest feedback.  It will be available to all Amigos members and non-members in October.

If there is one overarching goal in this project, it’s to provide flexibility and options to both libraries and the publishers who want to work with them, and to enhance the ebook options that libraries are able to provide to their patrons.  Currently there are about 60 imprints representing nearly 25,000 titles available for libraries to purchase.  For publishers who want to take part and make their books available to the program, there is a simple agreement outlining the terms including the protections that Amigos will put on the file.

Right now they are working with publishers on a purchase model so that libraries own the files they buy, and may lend out one copy at a time.  If at some point the library chooses not to host with Amigos any longer, they may move their files to another hosting platform, as long as the protections on the files remain the same.   As the program develops, Amigos will consider other purchasing options, including licenses.  They are also interested in developing support for self-published authors.

Amigos offers a variety of content to the libraries for purchase, covering areas of interest to both public and academic libraries.   Like the other consortia who work directly with publishers, they do ask for a discount for the libraries who are purchasing through them.  For the publishers, selling through Amigos means that they may now reach the individual collections of all of the libraries in the Amigos service area who are participating in the program, but with only one point of contact for sales and invoicing, and only signing one agreement.

One distinction about the Amigos eShelf program, compared to several of the other library-driven projects, is that this is not a shared collection (like enki in California).  Amigos is simply providing the infrastructure for libraries to build their own collections.  This is a perfect service for a consortium to offer, since it isn’t feasible for most libraries to build an ebook platform themselves.

However, when all the libraries can pool their money and resources through a consortium, it makes building an ebook platform within reach for even the smallest libraries.  For publishers, working through Amigos opens up the ability to sell to all of their member libraries directly, rather than through a shared collection.

Amigos began work on the project two years ago with a start-up grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. In July 2013, Amigos invited 18 public and academic librarians to a brainstorming session to learn what they wanted from an e-book platform. Amigos placed the needs and values of libraries first in designing both system functionality and publisher partnering structures for the Amigos eShelf Service.

For more information about the Amigos eShelf Service, contact Christine Peterson at  eShelf@amigos.org or 800-843-8482, ext. 2891. This program is funded (in part) by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and Texas State Library and Archives Commission