Open eBooks now available to connect students with free e-books

Open eBooks now available to connect students with free e-books

I said years ago that I thought the traditional publishers would participate in making e-books available to those of lesser means on a needs-tested basis.

Those tradpubs used to donate p-books (paperbooks) a lot…it was one of the reasons why, when I was the manager of a brick-and-mortar bookstore, we couldn’t donate the “strips”.

What’s a “strip”?

When a brick-and-mortar buys a book from most large publishers, they are guaranteed that they can sell it. If they don’t sell it, they can get credit from the publisher to purchase other books.

Naturally, you had to prove you didn’t sell it.

You could mail the whole book back, but that’s expensive…so we would tear the covers off paperbacks and send them back in an envelope.

Well, my employees would do it…I really had a hard time emotionally with tearing a book apart like that.

After you tear the cover off, you still have a book you can read. I wanted to donate them to local organizations, but I was told we couldn’t do that. However, we could simply identify the organization to the publisher, and generally, they would donate books to them (I think they had to have the right tax status, but I’m not sure).

Since tradpubs did that, I figured they would do needs-tested licensing of e-books…they aren’t losing sales to someone who couldn’t afford the book otherwise.

We haven’t really seen that with the general public through public libraries or directly through the publishers, but I was excited to see an initiative start up for students. blogpost by R. David Edelman, Special Assistant to the President for Economic and Technology Policy

explains the program, and as an introductory video by Michelle Obama.

It’s probably important to note that this isn’t a government program…it was “…created by a breakthrough coalition of literacy, library, publishing, and technology organizations who worked together over the past year to make the initiative possible.”

Baker & Taylor, a major book distributor, is involved…but so are ten (so far) tradpubs:

  • Bloomsbury: Providing unlimited access to over 1,000 of its most popular titles.
  • Candlewick: Providing unlimited access to all relevant children’s and young-adult eBook titles in their catalog.
  • Cricket Media: Offering full digital access to all of its market-leading magazines for children and young adults, including Ladybug and Cricket.
  • Hachette: Offering access to a robust catalog of their popular and award-winning titles.
  • HarperCollins: Providing a vast selection of their award-winning and popular titles.
  • Lee & Low: Providing unlimited access to over 700 titles from this leading independent publisher of multicultural books.
  • Macmillan: Providing unlimited access to all of the K-12 age-appropriate titles in their catalog of approximately 2,500 books.
  • National Geographic: Providing unlimited access to all of their age-appropriate content.
  • Penguin Random House: Committing to provide an extensive offering of their popular and award-winning books.
  • Simon & Schuster: Providing access to their entire e-catalog of books for children ages 4-14, comprised of 3,000 titles.

As you can see, that includes all of the Big 5 largest US trade publishers.

There is a lot of information available at the official site:

The basic workflow is that “…Any adult who works in a Title I (or Title I eligible) school, or a program or library that serves at least 70% of children from in-need families” signs up, and is then provided codes for their students.

The students can each have up to ten books out at a time, and keep them as long as they want…which is similar to Amazon’s paid subscription service,

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That’s pretty much it. 🙂

Some people wonder about the children being able to access the books…do lower-income children actually have access to devices on which to read the books?

Some devices are donated, but I thought this was a fascinating statistic in the post:

“According to a national survey, 85 percent of families with young children (6-13 years old) living below the poverty line have access to mobile devices.”


When the Kindle was first introduced in 2007, it cost about $400.

This doesn’t say that they actually own them, just that they have access to them. It does show, though, how important and mainstream they’ve become.

With a $50 device, and access to Wi-Fi (and there a lot of places to find that for free), the family could have TV, e-mail, a homework resource, and more.

Now, thanks to this program, they can probably also have access to in-copyright e-books.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

2 Responses to “Open eBooks now available to connect students with free e-books”

  1. Phink Says:

    I know Bufo has commented on this before but I am amazed and very happy at our Society’s transition of ‘books are only for the rich and connected’ to ‘books are for everyone’. Of course I don’t mean 100% unfortunately but pretty much everyone.

    A lot of people living today have no idea just how hard it was for a common man to find a book to read at the time the country was being founded. One does not have to travel too awfully far into the past to find a time where books were hard to come by for a variety of reasons. People started forming library clubs where members could read books in the members only library. I am not certain but I think it was Benjamin Franklin who started the first lending library in America around 1730 or so in Philadelphia. I’m also not certain if that was for anyone or if you had to be a member. A few innovations over time started turning the tide including paperbacks which I’m guessing was around 1930.

    I am so thankful that so many today have access to books. I cannot imagine a time where someone in my income bracket would have extremely limited access to books. This is why I think the Kindle is one of the most important inventions in a long time. I know it was not the first e-reader but it was the one that put e-books on the map. Because of the Kindle we now have even more access to books.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      Absolutely right!

      Certainly, for decades, books were the privilege of the upper class. Even teaching some people to read was a crime, let alone giving books to those on the outside of the upper echelon.

      Paperbacks were crucial. While there had been penny dreadfuls in the UK and dime novels in the USA, those were “genre” works, not what the elite were hypothetically reading. You can see when they were introduced here

      but basically, 1935 in the UK and 1939 in the USA (with Lost Horizon).

      I still see people saying things that indirectly suggest that books aren’t equally valuable for people of every socioeconomic class. When they talk about the “proper” way to read a book, it almost always involves something which requires more resources (at least to do in a convenient way). It’s a bit like saying you shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day…that’s harder to do if you only own two shirts…

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