Five More Facts About the White House and Michelle Obama's Free ‘Open...

column | Open Educational Resources (OER)

Five More Facts About the White House and Michelle Obama's Free ‘Open eBooks’ App

By Mary Jo Madda (Columnist)     Mar 4, 2016

Five More Facts About the White House and Michelle Obama's  Free ‘Open eBooks’ App

Last week, we broke news that Michelle Obama and the White House launched the Open eBooks app in an effort to provide $250 million worth of free digital texts to Title I, military base and special education teachers and librarians.

The piece elicited a range of comments and concerns from readers. We shared some of your questions with the White House and the New York Public Library to get clarification on a few items.

Is this available on Chromebooks? Or just tablets?

Initially, the app will be available on iOS and Android. Subsequent versions will be optimized to support as many platforms as possible, but are not available at the moment.

Can micro-publishers put books on this platform, too?

The Open eBooks team is open to adding new content in the future. Additional publishers—including small publishers—can talk to Open eBooks about including their works in subsequent waves of the initiative. Shoot a note to with any specific inquiries.

What is the breakdown of the "$250M worth of titles" ?

The White House claims that $250M is the amount of money the government is saving schools through this initiative, based on the New York Public Library's calculations.

How did the New York Public Library arrive at the $250M, then?

According to the New York Public Library, a conservative estimate of $250 million was based on the following formula: 3 (years) X 2,000,000 (students) X 22 (avg. reads/year) X $2 (estimate of the value of a read) = $265 million, which was then rounded down to $250 million to be conservative. In terms of those specific numbers:

  • "3" accounts for the three-year period in which the app's free content can be accessed
  • "22" is based on the American Library Association's findings that students in grades 1-12 read approximately 22 titles per year
  • "$2/read" is based on the logic that libraries spend around $1 for an e-book that is in circulation. The NY Public Library reports that titles in its First Book universe are more valuable than library e-books, because they can be read simultaneously by a limitless number of readers, so $2 is an estimate.

Does any money go to the authors?

The White House reports that there is no money-exchange involved with Open eBooks; the publishers made the books available based on pre-existing contracts with the authors.

Got more questions? Let us know in the comments section below.

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