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Douglas County Libraries' DIY E-Book Hosting

Submitted by Patrick Hogan on March 13, 2012 - 4:15pm

A few miles from the Front Range of the Rockies in Colorado, Douglas County Libraries is blazing trails in e-books in libraries. As Director James LaRue described in a Public Libraries article, the library staff, while happy with OverDrive’s solution at the in the early days of e-books, now question the feasibility getting e-books only through an aggregator platform because of costs, licensing terms, and other factors.

Meanwhile, technology tools and e-book platforms have brought exponential growth in self-publishing. According to Publisher’s Weekly data, 29,000 books were self published in the United States in 2004; in 2009, that number was 766,000; and only a year later, in 2010, 2.7 million titles were self-published. The traditional publishing and distribution channels now control only about 12 percent of new content. Douglas County Public Library saw an opportunity for libraries and initiated a project to manage its own e-book content. LaRue estimates that in self-hosting the library is saving about a third of the costs of licensing the same titles through a library wholesale platform.

Below is a brief description of the technological infrastructure for the system, which began a soft launch February 1.

  • Adobe Content Server, which host content under copyright and employs Digital Rights Management. An industry leader, ACS is used by both OverDrive and 3M.
  • VuFind, an open source discovery front end.
  • An Android and IOS ereader/mobile app, based in HTML5
  • A recommendation engine, like Amazon
  • MySQL server hosting public domain or Creative Commons licensed content from Project Gutenberg and other sources.
  • Link to purchase, to help demonstrate value to rights-holders

Monique Sendze, Associate Director of Information Technology at Douglas County Libraries, describes the project in detail in her article “The E-Book Experiment” in Public Libraries (January/February 2012). Below is a schematic of the architecture of the system, taken from the article.


Douglas County Library continues to contact publishers and authors and has agreements in place with the following partner organizations.

  • Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA)
  • Gale/Cengage Learning
  • Lerner Digital
  • Marshall Cavendish
  • Independent Publishers Group (IPG)
  • ABDO Publishing Group
  • BookBrewer
  • Dzanc Books
  • Infobase Learning
  • Book View Café

What about the big guns? Rochelle Logan, Associate Director of Support Services, has contacted such publishers as Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, MacMillan, Disney, and Harlequin. None was ready to license to Douglas County Public Library. The common objection was the administrative overhead of engaging in direct sales to individual libraries. One question raised: How many more libraries are doing this?

“The model works best if we share it,” LaRue said. To that end, the Colorado State Library will soon be launching a website so that the library community can access information such as technical documentation, presentations to the board, and usage data as it becomes available. A number of state libraries and consortia have expressed interest and are watching Douglas County as a model.

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Comments (2)

Thank you for the article. I

Thank you for the article. I watned to let folks know that the Colorado State Library website for the project, "eVoke" -- is up and can be found here:

The site includes technical articles, legal framework, publisher lists, and the code we have developed, all freely downloadable.

Thanks for the article. I

Thanks for the article. I wanted to let folks know that the Colorado State Library website is up now. You'll find it at

There are more technical articles and links, as well as our contribution to the platform: all of our Vufind code, freely downloadable.