The GDL launch on April 26 2018

The GDL platform was launched on April 26 2018, with an initial total of 900 resources in 15 languages, including Kiswahili (Kenyan), Bangla, Hausa and 7 Ethiopian languages. The launch itself was a success, with various stakeholders showing great excitement around all the opportunities the GDL can represent in Ethiopia and elsewhere. The launch was planned and executed with the help from USAID Ethiopia and UNESCO-IICBA.

The GDL team is currently planning user testing in Kenya and Bangladesh in July and workshops in Cambodia in September 2018, in conjunction with/or leading up to World Literacy Day on September 8. 

The design of the GDL has been based on a “mobile first” principle. At the time of the launch, the GDL platform included a website and a native app for Android, providing users with the option of:

  • Reading the titles on their mobile, tablet or computer
  • Downloading for print
  • Downloading the mobile app, providing the user with extended offline capabilities   
  • Translating titles into more than 300 languages

Quality assurance (QA) standards

The GDL team has developed quality assurance (QA) standards for different content categories, in close cooperation with reading experts from USAID, GPE and URC. The standards have been approved by the GBA Steering Committee. These QA standards serve as minimum criteria for the acceptance or rejection of various types of reading books submitted for upload to the GDL. In terms of responsibility for verifying that content quality is in accordance with these standards, URC has the lead on this for Classroom resources, whereas the GDL-team organizes this for Library resources.

Pictures from the Launch in Addis Ababa

Accessibility at the core of the GDL platform

The GDL project will follow the principles of universal design and accessibility and will have a strong focus on making all content generally accessible, including for those with print disabilities, i.e. blindness or low vision, severe dyslexia, or mobility impairment.

Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to websites, by people with disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users have equal access to information and functionality.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible. GDL will follow these guidelines to secure that the content is accessible for all users. By following these guidelines one will also often make the web content more usable in general.

The GDL platform is compliant to all WCAG 2.0 AA requirements and more than 15 of the AAA requirements.

Some of the titles that are part of the initial launch will not be WCAG 2.0 AA compliant, mostly because they lack alt-text for the pictures and illustrations.

User testing for accessibility

Successful digital initiatives are rooted in an understanding of user characteristics, needs, and challenges. User-centered design — also referred to as design thinking or human-centered design — starts with getting to know the people you are designing for through conversation, observation, and co-creation. Ensuring that our services are accessible for all has been an important part of the GDL project and we have engaged with users that have vision impairment.

Accessibility guidelines

All digital content shall conform to common accessibility guidelines (e.g. EPUB Accessibility 1.0EPUB 3 Accessibility Guidelines, and Top Tips for Creating Accessible EPUB3 Files)


GDL event at UNESCO Mobile Learning Week in Paris on March 27th

The workshop is co-organized by The Norwegian Agency and for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Global Book Alliance on March 27th, 2018 from 14:00-15:30 pm in Room 9 and will take place during the Mobile Learning Week (MLW) at UNESCO, Paris, France.

The GDL is now in its final stage of development and user testing before it will be launched in late April. At the time of launch, the Library will hold reading resources in approximately 10 languages, whereas by the end of 2020 this will have been expanded to more than 100 languages. The GDL will also facilitate translation and localization of these resources to more than 300 languages. All resources available on the GDL will have been quality assured in accordance with quality standards set by the Global Book Alliance.


In this workshop, we will give an introduction to the project, a live demo of the platform, and we will go through GDL content categories and quality assurance standards. 


Agenda for the workshop: 

  • Introduction to the Global Book Alliance, Brooke Estes 
  • Introduction to the Global Digital Library, Liv Marte Nordhaug 
  • Demo of GDL web and native app, Christer Gundersen 
  • Demo of translation and localization features, Christer Gundersen 
  • Panel discussion with collaborating partners:
    • Asia Foundation, Kyle Barker 
    • Learning Equality 

If you are attending the conference, we are looking forward to seeing you at our workshop. Please confirm your participation by 17th March 2018, by filling out the registration form

User testing in Ethiopia and Cambodia

The main objective of the user test in Ethiopia and Cambodia has been to discover weaknesses in the GDL web application. The focus has been on both technical weaknesses and on usability issues. The tests have been performed on both wireless networks and cellular networks in Addis Ababa and in a rural area outside of Phnom Penh Cambodia. Detailed descriptions have been given to test participants on what step to execute. The tests have been recorded using Lookback ( where both, sound, screen, clicks and face has been recorded.

User test highlights

1) Navigation to find book works well

All test subjects were successful in finding books and navigating to books on their language. All test subject was successful in navigating by using the menu. Som subjects did not understand the meaning of the menu icon.

2) Reading book

All test subjects were able to find a book and start reading by clicking the read button. All test subjects were able to navigate pages using click or swipe. All subject understood how many pages they had read and how many pages were remaining.

3) Close book

Nearly all test subjects had difficulties finding the close-book feature. In addition to this, the subjects who found the button had a difficulty clicking on it due to its positioning and size.

4) Download book

The test subjects did not understand the difference between ePub and PDF. Most of the test subjects selected PDF both for print and for reading later.

5) Load more

Users did not notice the load more feature.

6) Finding a specific book

When users were instructed to find a specific book, it was clear that a need for a search-function is essential.

Mobile picture in the dark

GDL reusing open source code and design

The Global Digital Library has a clear strategy of sharing all system code under a free license. This will make it possible for other projects to reuse our technology to create new solutions. We are also developing APIs to give easy access to all GDL resources.

For the GDL project it is just as also important to reuse technology and components from other open source and open content projects, to make our platform better and easier to develop.

Material Design from Google

The UX/design on the GDL platform is based on the principles of Google’s Material Design, with heavy inspiration of well known layouts from large e-book providers and SoMe-platforms. Material Design makes more liberal use of grid-based layouts, responsive animations and transitions, padding, and depth effects such as lighting and shadows. GDL makes use of system fonts on the platform, to make the experience as smooth as possible for the user, and without need to load external fonts.

Icons are all taken from Google Material Icons, Google’s open source icon library (Apache License Version 2.0). They are lightweight, easy to use, and well tested for over all use. The icons are also available as a git repository, making it even easier for developers to customize, share, and re-use.

App from New York Public Library

The Global Digital Library app for Android have reused the source code for the New York Public Library’s app SimplyE and used it as a starting point for our own app. We have removed the parts we didn’t need, like support for DRM, lending books, and support for multiple user accounts (for different libraries).

We have mostly kept the same flow of the user interface, but we have rewritten all the screens to match our own design. After user testing the original app from NYPL in Nepal we have also made some important changes to the user interface, particularly focusing on how the user interacts with the app on download and reading the actual ebook.

GDL user testing in Nepal and Ethiopia

Creating a good and engaging user experience is the starting point for any development process in the GDL project. This demands user driven development processes, including a profound understanding of different user situations.

During the initial phase of the GDL project we conducted user tests of the translation tool and the early prototype of a mobile native app. To ensure relevant user feedback we conducted these user tests in Nepal and Ethiopia, two locations where the language represent different challenges for the GDL team developing the platform.

In the user testing of the mobile native app prototype, some of the things we looked for were very practical, including the following:

  • Find an e-book, search, and user categories
  • Download and organize books in “my books”
  • Read a book, including the toggling between pages

We have also conducted user tests of the functionality in Crowdin, a content translation platform that supports crowdsourcing and proofreading. This was the main purpose of our user testing workshop in Addis Ababa in June.

Some of the tests are recorded, to ensure that our development team can go back and look at the user tests at any point in the development process.

Example 1, child reading book on a mobile app

Example 2, proofreading of Amharic.

The creative commons logo

GDL content and Creative Commons

The GDL core platform will hold digital copies of Creative Commons or otherwise openly licensed, publicly accessible materials.  

The primary licenses for the GDL will be CC BY and CC BY-SA. These licenses drive innovation and creativity – including commercial reuse. Furthermore, they strongly support the overall GDL goal of sharing, translation and contextualization of early grade reading educational materials, open textbooks and open educational resources. The GDL project will also accept other CC licenses.

We are collaborating with several content platforms who are addressing the increasing public demand for sharing under CC licenses, and for public domain tools. We encourage all projects developing content to visit for more information.

Creative Commons has developed a cc toolkit for user-generated content platforms. This toolkit covers the elements for a basic Creative Commons platform integration, including aligning legal terms to CC tools; installing the CC license chooser; displaying CC licensed content with the correct logos and links; and how to communicate CC to your users.