Open Library

Open LibraryAt the beginning of September I wrote an article with the title ‘Who owns your digital content? Hint: Not you’ in which I state both Amazon’s and Apple’s terms of service that grant you a “nontransferable” right to use content on up to five devices.

While in the article above I was thinking more about what happens with a person’s digital content after they are deceased, a recent article on Forbes made me think of the implications right now.

Like for most software, for example the Windows version you are using on your PC, you basically buy the right to use it on your computer but you don’t buy it under the same terms you buy a physical product, in the legal sense. If you read the terms and conditions for eBooks, we could also say that you borrow them from the respective company. This is, of course a bit simplified, however when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

As we cannot say that digital content is really yours, a company, in this case Amazon, can also access your e-reader or other device and swipe all the content / books you bought from the company when they find that you violate their terms of service. The books will be gone forever! In the Forbes story the user was banned from Amazon altogether.

Now, we have to say that the customer violated Amazon’s terms of service by residing in Norway but buying books from Amazon in the UK. Still, why was it possible for her to buy the eBooks in the first place and download them on her Kindle?

The explanation lies in something we call DRM which stands for Digital Rights Management. DRM essentially allows a company to access the content you bought from them legally and that you paid for. They can strip your device and don’t have to go into details on why they have done it.

Stories like this make us once again aware of how important it is to discuss DRM and have DRM-free alternatives such as open educational resources.


Open Library – DRM-free, quality content

Open LibraryAs we’re talking of books and eBooks specifically, I’d like to introduce you to the ‘Open Library’, a platform with more than a million free ebooks available. The Open Library is part of the non-profit Internet Archive.

The project just like Wikipedia and other similar initiatives largely relies on the community. As the whole platform, data and system are open, anyone can contribute by correcting typos for instance, but also adding books, of course.

If you’re looking for a book you can search by author, subject or lists.

The eBooks in the Open Library can be read online, downloaded as a pdf-file, embedded in other sites, and you also have the option to download it on your Kindle or other e-readers.

Open Library BorrowAnother option is the so called ‘lending library’. Here, various libraries are participating that let you borrow eBooks from their collections. You can borrow up to five titles for a period of two weeks each.

I like that the Open Library is not only a great resource for teachers, students and librarians but also takes on the challenge to catalog every book on this planet and make them available to the Internet community, completely DRM-free.


All in all, a worthy cause to spread the word about and to support! What are your thoughts on DRM and is the Open Library a resource you use in the classroom?


Image courtesy of Flick, katerha

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