OPDS For Library Patrons

Leonard Richardson edited this page Jun 15, 2018 · 8 revisions

OPDS For Library Patrons

Motivation

Unlike electronic bookstores and open-access repositories, public libraries often license ebooks for their patrons under terms that impose an artificial scarcity. Any of these scenarios may apply to a public library trying to get an ebook to one of its patrons:

  • The library has licensed a certain number of 'copies' of a book, and all the 'copies' are currently out on loan.
  • The library has a daily budget for loaning out books, which has been exceeded. No more titles from this vendor may be loaned out today.
  • The library may only deliver a book to a patron as a time-limited loan. After the loan expires, the patron is obliged to erase their local copy of the book.

As a response to the first scenario (not enough 'copies'), some electronic libraries have introduced the concept of holds from the physical world of branch libraries. A hold is a promise from library to patron that the patron will get a chance to borrow a book eventually, once other patrons in the 'hold queue' get a chance to read the book.

This specification documents OPDS extensions that allow public libraries to communicate these scenarios of artificial scarcity -- availability, holds queues, loan durations -- to OPDS clients. It also sets out guidelines for how an OPDS client should process the standard http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow link relation.

opds:availability - Describing resource availability

OPDS operates on the background assumption that a book with an OPDS entry is available right now and will always be available. In a public library environment, this is generally not true:

  • The patron might have a time-limited loan for a book. It's available now, but soon it won't be.
  • The patron might be in the middle of a hold queue. The book is not available now, but it will be eventually.
  • The patron might be at the front of a hold queue. The book is available now, but if the patron doesn't borrow it soon, they will lose their opportunity and have to go to the back of the queue.

Even in online bookstores, the 'now and always available' assumption does not necessarily hold. Two possible scenarios:

  • A book may be available for pre-order. The user can buy the book now, but the purchase will not be fulfillable until a certain date.
  • A book may be not be available after a certain date due to an expiring license, analogous to how films leave Netflix.

The opds:availability element conveys a title's current availability. It goes inside an atom:link element and communicates the current availability of the resource at the other end of the link.

Inserting availability information into the link allows a server to provide the client with a 'next step' towards availability, even if a title is not currently available. It also allows for the possibility that a title might be available through one mechanism but not another.

Three attributes are defined for the opds:availability element:

Attribute Semantics Values Default
state The current availability state of the resource. Four values for this attribute are defined below: available, unavailable, reserved, and ready. available
since Date when the availability state changed to the current state. ISO 8601 date No value
until Date when the availability state is expected to change again. ISO 8601 date No value

The opds:availability element is OPTIONAL. If it's not present, an OPDS client MUST assume that the resource at the other end of the atom:link is currently available.

opds:state - Can I have this book?

The opds:state attribute is REQUIRED for an opds:availability element.

These values are defined for opds:state:

  • available: The resource is available right now. If the user is authenticated, this means the resource is available to that user -- it might not be available generally. If the user is not authenticated, this means that any authenticated user can expect to be able to obtain the resource.

    This is not a binding promise. When the user follows the link, the resource may turn out not to be available after all.

  • unavailable: The resource is not currently available. The user can still follow the acquisition link, but this will result in some intermediate step, such as a preorder or a hold, rather than the immediate acquisition of the resource.

    This is not a binding promise. When the user follows the link, the resource may turn out to be available after all.

  • reserved: The authenticated user will get the resource eventually, but it's not available now. This generally means the authenticated user has placed a hold on the resource and is waiting in a holds queue.

  • ready: The resource is ready for the authenticated user, but not for the general public. The user can acquire the resource now, but if they don't act soon, they will lose the opportunity.

    This is not a binding promise. When the user follows the link, it may turn out that the reservation has expired and the resource is now unavailable.

opds:since and opds:until - When does my loan expire?

The date attributes are OPTIONAL in an opds:status element. They are used to help the patron plan for the future.

  • If opds:state is available, then opds:since is the time at which the resource became available, and opds:until is the time at which the resource will no longer be available.

    For example, if the patron has a resource on loan, opds:since is the loan's start date and opds:until is the expiration date.

  • If opds:state is unavailable, then opds:since is the last time at which the resource was available (probably not useful) and opds:until is the estimated time at which the resource will become available. The opds:until time may be conditional on the user taking some immediate action, such as putting a hold on the resource.

  • If opds:state is reserved, then opds:since is the time at which the authenticated user placed their hold, and opds:until is the estimated time at which the resource will become available (probably by moving into the ready state). This estimate can't be exact because it depends on the behavior of people further up in the hold queue.

    If the patron does not have an active loan, then opds:until for an unavailable resource may indicate the estimated time at which the resource will become available if the patron joins the hold queue now,

  • If opds:state is ready, then opds:since is the time at which the resource became ready to the authenticated user, and opds:until is the time at which the resource will revert to its default availability (probably unavailable).

opds:copies - How many copies does the library have?

The opds:copies element describes the number of licenses the server owns for a resource. Although this is intended to describe electronic licenses for virtual resources, it may also be used to represent physical books in a bookstore or branch library.

Like opds:availability, opds:copies goes inside an atom:link element and describes the resource at the other end of the link. If multiple links give access to the same resource (e.g. in different formats), each link SHOULD provide the same information in its opds:copies.

opds:copies has two optional attributes, opds:total and opds:available. Both have a numeric value.

  • opds:total is the total number of licenses available to the server.
  • opds:available is the number of those licenses that are available to patrons right now (e.g. not disabled or on loan to specific patrons).

If the opds:state is unavailable, then opds:available SHOULD be 0.

opds:holds - Where am I in line?

The opds:holds element describes the people waiting in line for access to a resource.

Like opds:availability, opds:holds goes inside an atom:link element and describes the resource at the other end of the link. If multiple links give access to the same resource (e.g. in different formats), each link SHOULD provide the same information in its opds:holds.

opds:holds has two optional attributes, opds:total and opds:position. Both have a numeric value.

  • opds:total Is the total number of people waiting for access to this resource.
  • opds:position is the position in that queue of the currently authenticated user.

If the opds:state is available, then opds:total SHOULD be 0.

Examples

This example shows a book which is not currently available, but which can be put on hold (the first link, with the relation http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow) or pre-ordered (the second link, with the relation http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/buy).

<entry>

 <link type="application/atom+xml;type=entry;profile=opds-catalog" rel="http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow" href="http://example.org/hold/1">
   <opds:availability state="unavailable" until="2019-09-07"/>
   <opds:indirectAcquisition type="application/vnd.adobe.adept+xml">
      <opds:indirectAcquisition type="application/epub+zip"/>
   </opds:indirectAcquisition>
 </link>

 <link type="text/html" rel="http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/buy" href="http://example.org/buy/1">
   <opds:price currency="EUR">10.99</opds:price>
   <opds:availability state="unavailable" until="2019-09-07"/>
   <opds:indirectAcquisition type="application/vnd.adobe.adept+xml">
      <opds:indirectAcquisition type="application/epub+zip"/>
   </opds:indirectAcquisition>
 </link>
</entry>

In this example, there are 100 people in the hold queue, 20 copies in total (none of them available) and the user has yet to place a hold for the book. The available state is unavailable and the opds:until attribute is an estimate of how long the user will be waiting in the hold queue.

<link ...>
  <opds:availability state="unavailable" until="2019-09-07"/>
  <opds:indirectAcquisition type="application/epub+zip"/>
  <opds:holds total="100"/>
  <opds:copies total="20" available="0"/>
</link>

In this example, there are 93 people in the hold queue for a book, and 87 of those people are ahead of the authenticated user. The availability state is reserved and the opds:until attribute gives the estimated time at which the book will be available to this user.

<link ...>
  <opds:availability state="reserved" until="2015-09-07"/>
  <opds:indirectAcquisition type="application/epub+zip"/>
  <opds:holds total="93" position="88"/>
  <opds:copies total="19" available="0"/>
</link>

In this example, the authenticated user is at the front of the hold queue but has not yet acquired a loan. The opds:position element is missing from opds:holds. The opds:availability element indicates that the user can get the book now (opds:state is ready) but that if they don't act, they eventually lose their opportunity and have to place a new hold (opds:until gives the time at which this will happen).

<link ...>
  <opds:availability state="ready" since="2018-09-07" until="2018-09-10"/>
  <opds:holds total="59"/>
  <opds:copies total="19" available="0"/>
</link>

In this example, the user has acquired a loan for the book. Here the opds:availability element is most important. Its opds:state attribute is availabile. The opds:since attribute shows the time at which the loan was created, and the opds:until attribute shows the time at which the loan will expire.

<link ...>
  <opds:availability state="available" since="2018-09-09" until="2018-10-09"/>
  <opds:holds total="58"/>
  <opds:copies total="19" available="0"/>
</link>

The http://librarysimplified.org/terms/rel/revoke relation - Abandon a loan or hold

An online bookstore typically does not allow someone who buys a book to renounce their purchase. However, a public library allows someone with a book on loan to return the book before their loan expires, freeing it up for someone else. A library also allows someone with a hold on a book to abandon their place in the holds queue, perhaps because they're tired of waiting or they gave up and bought their own copy.

If an opds:entry for a title includes an atom:link element with the relation http://librarysimplified.org/terms/rel/revoke, it means the authenticated user can make a POST or DELETE requst to the link target (the atom:href) to abandon their active loan or hold on that title. The server is expected to act as though the user had never borrowed this title or put it on hold.

With some DRM systems (such as with Adobe ACS) early return is entirely the responsibility of the DRM library, and triggering a link with this relation will do nothing. But when there is no DRM, triggering the link should be all that's necessary to abandon an active loan.

Detailed semantics for the http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow relation

The link relation http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow is defined in the core OPDS 1.2 spec like so: "Indicates that the complete representation of the content Resource may be retrieved as part of a lending transaction."

OPDS For Library Patrons offers additional details about how this state transition is expected to work, based on the needs of public libraries.

There are two basic things to keep in mind.

  • "Borrowing" and "fulfillment" are two different steps. To "borrow" is to create a loan. To "fulfill" is to download a copy of a book for which you have an active loan. You can borrow a book once and then fulfill it on several reading devices.

    This specification uses the link relation http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow to talk about the "borrow" step and the generic link relation http://opds-spec.org/acquisition to talk about the "fulfill" step.

  • When you trigger a http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow state transition, you may end up with a hold, rather than a loan. The opds:availability element will guide you as to whether following a link will get you a loan or a hold, but the opds:availability might be wrong -- someone else may have checked out the last copy of a book just before you did.

    On the other hand, you may trigger the state transition expecting to get a hold, and end up with a loan -- someone returned their copy of the book in between the time you downloaded the OPDS feed and the time you followed the link.

So, here are the specific semantics for the http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow link relation:

  1. A server that publishes a link with the relation http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow SHOULD set atom:type to the media type of an OPDS Catalog Entry Document Resource (i.e. "application/atom+xml;type=entry;profile=opds-catalog")

    Example:

<link href="https://borrow-me/" rel="http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow"
      type="application/atom+xml;type=entry;profile=opds-catalog">
  <opds:indirectAcquisition type="application/vnd.adobe.adept+xml">
     <opds:indirectAcquisition type="application/epub+zip"/>
  </opds:indirectAcquisition>
</link>

We suggest sending an OPDS Entry instead of the actual title for two reasons. First, borrowing is different from fulfillment. If a book is fulfillable in multiple formats, the client should be given a choice of formats at fulfillment time, not at borrow time. That choice of formats is given in an OPDS entry (as per item 3 below).

Second, the client may not actually end up with a loan! If the client asks to borrow a title, but the server can only put it on hold, the appropriate response is an OPDS entry explaining the conditions of the hold.

  1. A client may trigger a link with the relation http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow by sending a POST request to the target URL. No specific entity-body is required, but client authentication MUST be provided if known.

  2. When sending an OPDS entry to an authenticated user who has a title on loan, a server MUST use the relation http://opds-spec.org/acquisition for links that will lead to digital a copy of the title.

    Example:

    <link href="http://download/book.pdf"
          rel="http://opds-spec.org/acquisition"
          type="application/pdf"/>
    </link>

    <link href="http://acs-server/a-book.acsm"
          rel="http://opds-spec.org/acquisition"
          type="application/vnd.adobe.adept+xml"/>
      <opds:indirectAcquisition type="application/epub+zip"/>
    </link>

The first link is saying there's a PDF document at the other end of http://download/book.pdf. The second link is saying that there's an Adobe ACSM document at the other end of http://acs-server/a-book.acsm, which can be processed to obtain an EPUB document.

So, here's what a client might do and see when the user expresses the intention to borrow a book:

  • Send a POST request to the target of a http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/borrow link.
  • Parse the resulting OPDS entry.
  • If there are http://opds-spec.org/acquisition/ links, you have an active loan and can proceed to download the book. You should see an opds:availability element explaining the terms of your loan.
  • If there are no such links, you are in the hold queue. You should see an opds:availability explaining where you are in the hold queue.
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