People Interact

Blog about people-centered design by Lisa Chow and Sandra Sajonas.

Tag Archives: ebooks

Subway Library – Free Downloadable Books from NYC Libraries

A library on the subway? Yep, the Subway Library is offering free downloadable books from the city’s three public library systems. Be on the lookout for the subway library train. I spotted it across the tracks the other day but I was going in the opposite direction.


Wandering Librarian: Westport Library

The first library in our new series is in the quaint town of Westport, CT. I decided to pop in and see why the Westport Library is a finalist for the 2015 IMLS National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the highest honor given to museums and libraries.

Upon walking into the main area, I was flummoxed; they have an incredible MakerSpace. All I have to say is “they have robots!” westportrobotsBesides the robots, their MakerSpace is equipped with 3 3D printers and a Design-Thinking Center. Although after conversations with staff & patrons, the Design-Thinking Center seemed to be one of those timely grant initiatives that follow recent trends (all the buzz words were there; ideate, design-thinking, etc) but fail to capture the true purpose and objective of the trend.

Besides this detail, Westport has all the basics of a great library & them some. Overall, Westport is a user-centered library that pays attention to their patrons’ wants and needs.

Here’s a shortlist of some features that contribute to a great user experience:


  • digital lending library of ebooks, videos, films, music & audiobook
  • tech petting zoo
  • old fashion typewriter (yes, some people still want to use these)
  • phone/tablet charging station
  • public coat hooks (a small but thoughtful detail)
  • gift shop & cafe
  • self-checkout kioks
  • book a librarian services
  • print, scan & fax service that accept old fashion cash
  • wireless printing


The Book Elf: The eBook Sharing Social Network – Guest Post by Greg Belvedere

The Book Elf will make sharing eBooks easy.

The Book Elf will make sharing eBooks easy, while adhering to copyright laws. This free eBook sharing social network will start by making public domain eBooks shareable, but gradually add copyrighted works. The site launched July 19th.

People have shared books for as long as they have read them. Unfortunately, most copyrighted eBooks have licenses that make it illegal for the owner to do so. Many of these licenses rely on DRM (digital rights management) file formats to enforce their terms. These DRM file formats create a poor experience for the average reader, while doing little to deter the tech savvy pirate. It would be a shame if we lost the ability to share books as we transition to eBooks. At the same time authors and publishers have concerns about file sharing that we must address. The Book Elf strikes a balance that will satisfy both readers and copyright holders.

The Book Elf will start by letting users share public domain eBooks. Public domain works don’t have copyright restrictions, so you can share them freely with your friends. Most literary classics are in the public domain, giving users a great selection to chose from. Users can find eBooks by searching their friends’ shelves, or searching The Book Elf which also links to the Internet Archive’s public domain collection. If a public domain eBook is not in our collection, users can upload a copy. We will verify the public domain status before adding it to the user’s shelf and our collection. Users can also write reviews for eBooks.

In order to allow legal sharing of copyrighted works, The Book Elf will create a new eBook license that allows authors and publishers who adopt it to make their copyrighted eBooks shareable through the site. The Book Elf will approach independent authors and publishers with this new model first. Instead of using DRM file formats which create a poor user experience, The Book Elf will build DRM into the website itself to prevent copies from proliferating. Three simple rules will keep sharing fair for copyright holders, while still leveraging the advantages of this digital format to give users a great experience:

  1. Users can only share copyrighted eBooks with friends in their network. This prevents users from giving a copy away to everyone with an internet connection (the way most file sharing methods do).
  2. Users may download a copyrighted eBook from a friend’s shelf, but they may not place it on their own shelf to share with other users. This will prevent people who do not own the book, and therefore do not have the right to share it, from making it available on The Book Elf.
  3. When a user downloads a copyrighted eBook nobody else can download that eBook from that shelf for 3 weeks. This will prevent a user from giving an eBook to everyone in their network at once.

The Book Elf makes sharing eBooks both fair and convenient with a new approach to DRM. The site went live on July 19th. You can sign up at

Greg Belvedere is the founder of The Book Elf, the DRM-Free ebook lending social network.

Help Create a DRM-free Ebook Lending Social Network – Guest Post by Greg Belvedere

Help Create a DRM-free Ebook Lending Social Network.

Contribute to the Our Bookshelf Indiegogo campaign. A few months ago I wrote a guest post here that touched on some of the barriers to sharing ebooks legally. In that post I talked about my plans to create a DRM-free ebook lending social network called Our Bookshelf. I have designed the website and I now have a great developer lined up to build it. However, good programmers and graphic designers don’t work for free. So I have launched an Indiegogo campaign to help raise the funds. You get neat perks when you contribute. More importantly, you will help create a place where people can share ebooks as easily they share print books, but in a way that still treats copyright holders fairly.

Your contribution will help Our Bookshelf reach its first phase and become an ebook lending social network for public domain books. Since these books are not under copyright, users may share them freely without having to worry about restrictive licenses. Once we have an active social network we will work start getting authors and publishers to adopt our new ebook license that allows sharing. I have worked out way to share ebooks fairly through the Our Bookshelf website. You can read more about it on our Indiegogo campaign page or on our website. I hope you will contribute and help improve the way we share ebooks. I also encourage you to tell any bibliophile friends and colleagues that you have. You can find us on facebook, google+, and on twitter @ourebookshelf

Greg Belvedere is the founder of Our Bookshelf, the DRM-Free ebook lending social network.