Douglas County Libraries' DIY E-Book Hosting

By Patrick Hogan |

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.