Open Library – striving to provide a page on the web for every book ever published

Open Library ( is an open, editable library catalog, building towards a web page for every book ever published. Just like Wikipedia, you can contribute new information or corrections to the catalog. You can browse by subject, author or lists members have created. Open Library is a project of the non-profit Internet Archive, and has been funded in part by the California State Library and the Kahle/Austin Foundation.

At its heart, Open Library is a catalog. The project began in November 2007 and has been inhaling catalog records from some of the biggest libraries in the world ever since. They have over 20 million edition records online, provide access to 1.7 million scanned versions of books, and link to external sources like WorldCat and Amazon when they can. The secondary goal is to get the public as close to the actual document as possible, whether that is a scanned version courtesy of the Internet Archive, or a link where one can purchase a copy.

Open Library is an open project: the software is open, the data are open, the documentation is open, and they welcome all contributions. Contributions can be as simple as fixing a typo, adding a book, or writing a widget–. They have a small team of fantastic programmers who have accomplished a lot, but they cannot do it alone. The site if feature rich. For instance, you can create a list of any subjects, authors, works or specific editions. Once you have made a list, you can watch for updates or export all the editions in a list as HTML, BibTeX or JSON. You can then see all your lists and any activity using the “Lists” link on your Account page.

Open Library account holders can borrow up to 5 ebooks from the lending library. If you have ever read a book, you can help build the Library. All you need to do is hit the EDIT button and start filling in the gaps.  They seek all sorts of details, from what the book is about to information about the physical appearance of the book itself (size, format, number of pages etc). Other information they are interested in collecting,  is anything that connects Open Library records to other book sites out there on the Web. The easiest way to do this is to collect what are called “identifiers”. If you are a software developer, you might be interested to read a bit more in their Developers FAQ. So, If you love books, why not help build a library?

Posted on behalf of Kevin Curran, Tech RoundUp columnist for MmIT journal


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