The Open Library

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If you haven’t visited The Open Library, PG says you should become acquainted with this fabulous trove of old and less-old books.

From The Open Library:

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

To build Open Library, we need hundreds of millions of book records, a wiki interface, and lots of people who are willing to contribute their time and effort to building the site.

To date, we have gathered over 20 million records from a variety of large catalogs as well as single contributions, with more on the way.

Open Library is an open project: the software is open, the data are open, the documentation is open, and we welcome your contribution. Whether you fix a typo, add a book, or write a widget–it’s all welcome. We have a small team of fantastic programmers who have accomplished a lot, but we can’t do it alone!

Link to the rest at The Open Library – About Us

One cool feature PG hadn’t seen before was the ability to easily embed public domain books into your website.


You click on the book cover to see the listing or click on the READ button to be taken to the first page of the book itself.

PG found some interesting images in The Hunting of the Snark (again, public domain):

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9 thoughts on “The Open Library”

  1. I’ve checked things out from there before, but a lot of the material is very poorly OCR’d. Very.

    • It lends out books both old and new, including modern commercial books that are still under copyright.
      Which they don’t deny.

      Gutenberg, Feedbooks, and others moving out-of-copyright books give them away outright.

  2. I’ve borrowed some out of print books from them before. I’ve appreciated the service. Yes, some of the books are very poorly OCR’d, but when faced with no access to a book at all, I’ll take the poorly OCR’d version.

    I do wish they had a history of past loans for users to reference. That would be handy.

  3. So is the concept that since the Open Library has possession of a physical copy and limits access to “borrows”, that they’re not violating copyright?

    Seems strange, but if that could work it would sure open up a lot of reading material to people that currently have more limited access.

    • More precisely, they claim that a print license is also an ebook license and licensing the first automatically grants the latter.

      This puts them on the side of the BPHs that claimed old pbook contracts that made no mention of digital or audio rights automatically granted them too. Didn’t fly in court and neither will the Open Library’s scan-n-ocr rights claim.

      Wanting does not guarantee getting.

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