Frequently Asked Questions

What is the DPLA Exchange?

The DPLA Exchange is a marketplace in which libraries can acquire eBooks offered by the Digital Public Library of America. Libraries can purchase popular ebooks and other e-content to serve to their patrons. Libraries can also select and acquire thousands of open works for free. The DPLA Exchange is being piloted by six libraries now and will open to other libraries next year.

How does the DPLA Exchange work?

[The DPLA Exchange is one piece of an emerging national digital platform for library e-content service based on open architecture and connected by the standard Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS). With the other two components, Library Simplified content management system and the SimplyE apps, both open source, libraries can now serve their eBooks more seamlessly and using technology they own.

How can I learn more about DPLA’s eBook work?

Check out these recent posts about DPLA’s work:

What is the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)?

The Digital Public Library of America empowers people to learn, grow, and contribute to a diverse and better-functioning society. We do this by maximizing public access to our shared history, culture, and knowledge. DPLA connects people to the riches held within America’s libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions. The Digital Public Library of America is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Boston. To learn more about DPLA and its other services, visit

What is the DPLA Exchange?

The DPLA Exchange is a marketplace in which libraries (and only libraries) can purchase popular ebooks and other e-content to serve to their patrons. Libraries can also select and acquire thousands of open works for free.

Can individuals buy books from the DPLA Exchange? Why not?

No. The DPLA Exchange is a marketplace for libraries only. The e-content licenses offered are not relevant or appropriate for an individual. The license includes digital lending rights (the right to lend the title to more than one person) and as a result are generally more expensive than retail ebooks meant for individual purchase and consumption.

Can any library buy books from the DPLA Exchange?

Yes. In order purchase content from the DPLA Exchange, libraries must become a DPLA Cultural Services member (no fee). Then they can shop and buy e-content, which will be delivered through an Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS) feed (learn more below).

Why are the prices on some books high (higher than the price for retail sales)?

Libraries can not buy ebooks in the same way and at the same price that individual consumers can. Unlike with print books, which are governed by copyright and for which the first sale doctrine allows libraries to buy books at the same price as everyone else and lend them, ebooks are really licenses and libraries have to buy different, often much more expensive licenses in order to lend ebooks to patrons.

What does the license information (listed under the price to the right of each item) mean?

At the right hand side of the page next to each item you will see a price for the item. Below that is a symbol representing the format of the item (such as this one for EPUB ). The information listed below the format icon describes the type of license available to libraries. For example, most publishers allow libraries to purchase “1 at a time” titles that never expire but can be lent to only one user at a time. Other publishers offer different license types, for example: licenses that allow the library to lend the item 26 times before it expires; licenses that allow the lesser of 52 lends or two years; or time-bound licenses good for 6,12 or 24 months.

How will libraries serve books they purchased in the DPLA Exchange?

The DPLA Exchange is one of three parts of an open, interoperable, library-centric national digital platform DPLA is helping to create. DPLA has launched a service with our new strategic partners LYRASIS to host instances of the open source Library Simplified middleware solution for libraries. This will allow libraries to merge ebooks from the DPLA Exchange and other sources into a seamless discovery experience for patrons. This solution also provides library staff an administrative interface to manage and curate the collection, which users will find and read primarily in the SimplyE iOS and Android apps. Together the DPLA Exchange, Library Simplified middleware and SimplyE Apps provide a complete the digital platform to enable wholly library-based delivery of e-content for the first time.

What is Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS)?

OPDS is a simple, elegant syndication format based on Atom and HTTP. It allows libraries to use a standard protocol for the aggregation, distribution, discovery, and acquisition of electronic publications. We believe helping US libraries move to OPDS-based distribution could greatly expand access by enabling libraries to select and integrate various interoperable parts of their technology systems to meet their users needs.

What is Open Distribution for Libraries (ODL)?

ODL is an enhanced version of OPDS that allows the library more visibility into and control over the e-content they purchase. ODL provides the librarian information about the exact type of licenses held. For example, one title may have a license for 26 lends, with 22 remaining, while another title may have a license for one year with two months left. Information about the licenses a library owns is available and actionable through ODL. ODL also offers information about and control over the holds queue. We hope that as this work moves forward the Library Simplified system will be enhanced to support ODL so that US libraries can optimize their purchasing and holds (as European libraries using ODL already can) to maximize access to their e-content collections.

Can the DPLA Exchange serve audiobooks?

Audiobook (MP3) support is in the works and we anticipate adding audio books from major publishers in the first half of 2018.

What libraries are participating now? When will the DPLA Exchange be open to others?

The diverse group of pilot libraries are: Alameda County Library (CA); Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (PA); Connecticut State Library(CT); Califa Library Group (CA, KS); St. Mary’s County Library (MD) and Yavapai Library Network (AZ). After a preliminary period working with these selected libraries, DPLA plans to open the DPLA Exchange to more institutions. We anticipate this happening in mid-2018.

How is this related to the Open eBooks initiative?

DPLA is a proud partner on Open eBooks, an app containing thousands of popular and award-winning titles that are free for children from in-need households. We join a coalition of literacy, library, technology and publishing partners in helping build a love of reading. Both Open eBooks and the DPLA Exchange are two of a growing number of ebook projects DPLA is proud to help lead.

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