Open Library

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OpenLibrary is an open, editable library catalog, building towards a web page for every book ever published




"The OpenLibrary website was created by the Internet Archive to demonstrate a way that books can be represented online.

The vision is to create free web access to important book collections from around the world.

Books are scanned and then offered in an easy-to-use interface for free reading online. If they're in the public domain, the books can be downloaded, shared and printed for free. They can also be printed for a nominal fee by a third party, who will bind and mail the book to you. The books are always FREE to read at the Open Library website."


"One web page for every book ever published. It's a lofty, but achievable, goal.

To build it, we need hundreds of millions of book records, a brand new database infrastructure for handling huge amounts of dynamic information, a wiki interface, multi-language support, and people who are willing to contribute their time, effort, and book data.

To date, we have gathered about 30 million records (20 million are available through the site now), and more are on the way. We have built the database infrastructure and the wiki interface, and you can search millions of book records, narrow results by facet, and search across the full text of 1 million scanned books." (


From an iCommons interview [1] :

"Aaron Swartz, the Tech lead on the Open Library project, a man who reads a lot of books…

What was the initial impetus to start this very ambitious project?

I think the first inclinations I got toward it were when I was reading a magazine article and it gushed about some classic book. I went to find it on the Internet but the book was old and out of print so there was nothing. Amazon does carry out of print books and libraries don't have much more than a sentence. I wished there could be a site that had information about every book, not just the ones publishers were pushing at the time.

Digital libraries free up public domain books that often would never be noticed on a library shelf. This is important. But I wonder sometimes if these odd, sometimes wonderful, often obscure books don't just bog down digital libraries with oddities and clutter metadata?

Certainly we need to get better at search – at Open Library we're hoping to rank more highly books that have been reviewed in major papers and magazines, that lots of users buy or visit, that have lots of copies, etcetera. But there is still some joy in coming across an oddity, just like in a grand real library.

Open Library offers content, covers, different versions of the same text - where did you source all your scans from, and how long did it take to scan and upload them all?

The scans are being done our parent project, the Internet Archive – companies and libraries have been funding them to take books off their shelves and run them through the scanner. They've been at it for several years now.

Reading a book on Open Library is very easy and elegant, unlike some other digital libraries that are very clunky and rough. What factors influenced the design of this interface?

Thanks. We still have some ways to go with the book interface, but we wanted something that felt comfortable to read. We can do so much more with digital books that we thought we should try to make a reading experience that was even more comfortable than with paper.

How does the Internet Archive plan to keep a project like this sustainable?

We're hoping to get grants form library associations and make some money of book sale commissions. But our costs are surprisingly low.

I'm interested in the potential for online and traditional libraries to compliment each other as sources and repositories of knowledge. How does the Internet Archive see the Open Library complimenting and working with the libraries that have partnered in the project into the future?

We hope to push people towards libraries in their area. When they find a classic old book they want, we'll tell them which local libraries have a copy and how to get to them." (