At the 2015 ITEM Fall Conference (October 2-3) in St. Cloud, I attended the Explore Ebooks MN: Update session. The presenters were Valerie Horton of Minitex and Emily Kissane of State Library Services within the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).

Valerie reported that a statewide approach to ebooks was the subject of a series of activities that culminated in the August 2014 ebook “summit” at St. Catherine University. Out of that process the project now named Ebooks Minnesota emerged. Some of the characteristics of the project that were high priorities for planning participants included: titles be owned in perpetuity; unlimited simultaneous use/access; DRM; and ease of use. The new project is designed to include those characteristics.

Ebooks Minnesota will be a shared collection for all types of libraries and all Minnesotans, using IP-authentication much as the ELM databases do now. MDE has provide $100,000 for content for K-12 readers. Minitex is committed to keep the “platform” running, although after the first two years, need new funds will be need in order to continue adding new content.

Minnesota is the fourth state to implement a statewide ebook collection (Arizona, North Carolina, and Massachusetts), with the MN project most resembling North Carolina’s. The “opening day” collection will be exclusively MN independent publishers. One project goal is to include a strong core of children’s content. Another goal is linking the collection  with the MN Digital Library. Valerie reported that a search of OCLC WordCat indicates that 385,000 books have been published in MN by +150 publishers. In fact, a recent article indicated that a recent (March 2008) article in School Library Journal stated that twelve of the top publishers of school-age books in the U.S. are in Minnesota (8 are located n Minneapolis and 4 in Mankato). Minnesota publishers produce 2,350 children’s titles each year.

Ebooks Minnesota has signed agreements with Cherry Lake, Lerner, and ABDO – and they working with other publishers. The focus will be on “midlist” and “backlist” titles only = best-sellers will have to wait a year or so. The content will not be a popular title collection, as various libraries and library systems across Minnesota already provide such e-content (e.g using OverDrive and 3M). Platform to be BiblioBoard from BiblioLabs (they will have a vendor booth at the MLA Conference). A Made in MN tag/graphic will appear everywhere, as the initial collection should also be seen as promoting Minnesota businesses.

ELM will be one important access point/portal, and it is hoped that MnLINK will have a “discovery layer” later this year. The MN Digital Library will be another access point. Free MARC records will be made available for local/regional library catalogs, although they will likely come a collection “packages” from each publisher rather than single records. Expect a November “soft launch” with the goal of an opening day collection of 3,500-4,000 titles (there will be a minimum of 2,000 titles).