Open Library

Open Library is an online project intended to create "one web page for every book ever published". Created by Aaron Swartz,[4][5] Brewster Kahle,[6] Alexis Rossi,[7] Anand Chitipothu,[7] and Rebecca Malamud,[7] Open Library is a project of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization. It has been funded in part by grants from the California State Library and the Kahle/Austin Foundation. Open Library provides online access to many public domain and out-of-print books.

Open Library
Open Library homepage in September 2011
Type of site
Digital library index
Available inEnglish
Alexa rank 10,512 (As of 19 March 2019)[1]
Launched2006 (2006)
Current statusActive
Content license
data: public domain[2]
source code: AGPLv3[3]

Book database and digital lending library

Its book information is collected from the Library of Congress, other libraries, and, as well as from user contributions through a wiki-like interface.[5] If books are available in digital form, a button labelled "Read" appears next to its catalog listing. Links to where books can be purchased or borrowed are also provided.

There are different entities in the database:

  • authors
  • works (which are the aggregate of all books with the same title and text)
  • editions (which are different publications of the corresponding works)

Open Library claims to have 6 million authors and 20 million books (not works), and about one million public domain books available as digitized books.[8] Tens of thousands of modern books were made available from four[9] and then 150 libraries and publishers[10] for ebook digital lending. Other books including in-print and in-copyright books have been scanned from copies in library collections, library discards, and donations, and are also being distributed in digital form.[11]


Open Library began in 2006 with Aaron Swartz as the original engineer and leader of the Open Library's technical team.[4][5] The project was led by George Oates from April 2009 to December 2011.[12] Oates was responsible for a complete site redesign during her tenure.[13] In 2015, the project was continued by Giovanni Damiola and then Brenton Cheng and Mek Karpeles in 2016.

The site was redesigned and relaunched in May 2010. Its codebase is on GitHub.[14] The site uses Infobase, its own database framework based on PostgreSQL, and Infogami, its own Wiki engine written in Python.[15] The source code to the site is published under the GNU Affero General Public License.[16][3]

Book sponsorship program

In the week of October 21, 2019, the Open Library website introduced a Book Sponsorship program, which according to Cory Doctorow, "lets you direct a cash donation to pay for the purchase and scanning of any books. In return, you are first in line to check that book out when it is available, and then anyone who holds an Open Library library card can check it out."[17]. The feature was developed by Mek Karpeles, Tabish Shaikh, and other members of the community[18].

Books for the blind and dyslexic

The website was relaunched adding ADA compliance and offering over 1 million modern and older books to the print disabled in May 2010[19] using the DAISY Digital Talking Book.[20] Under certain provisions of United States copyright law, libraries are sometimes able to reproduce copyrighted works in formats accessible to users with disabilities.[21][22].

As of February 2019, the Open Library has been accused of mass copyright violation, via the systematic distribution of in-print, in-copyright books, by the American Authors Guild,[23] the British Society of Authors,[24] the Australian Society of Authors,[25] the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America,[26] the US National Writers Union,[27] and a coalition of 37 national and international organizations of "writers, translators, photographers, and graphic artists; unions, organizations, and federations representing the creators of works included in published books; book publishers; and reproduction rights and public lending rights organizations."[28] The UK Society of Authors threatened legal action unless the Open Library agreed to cease distribution of copyrighted works by 1 February 2019.[29] Individual authors reported that Open Library had ignored multiple DMCA takedown notices until after they made a fuss on the Internet Archive blog.[30]

See also


  1. " Traffic, Demographics and Competitors - Alexa". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  2. Who owns the Open Library catalog?
  3. "openlibrary/LICENSE at master · internetarchive/openlibrary · GitHub". Archived from the original on 2017-01-22. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  4. "A library bigger than any building". BBC News. 2007-07-31. Archived from the original on 2009-11-27. Retrieved 2010-07-06.
  5. Grossman, Wendy M (2009-01-22). "Why you can't find a library book in your search engine". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 2014-01-14. Retrieved 2010-07-06.
  6. "Aaron Swartz: howtoget". Archived from the original on 2015-05-23. Retrieved 2015-06-05.
  7. "The Open Library Team | Open Library". Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  8. "About Us". Archived from the original on 2015-06-27. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  9. Fowler, Geoffrey A. (2010-06-29). "Libraries Have a Novel Idea - WSJ". Archived from the original on 2016-10-28. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  10. "Internet Archive Forums: In-Library eBook Lending Program Launched". 2011-02-22. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  11. "FAQ on Controlled Digital Lending (CDL)". Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  12. "George". Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  13. Oates, George (2010-03-17). "Announcing the Open Library redesign « The Open Library Blog". Archived from the original on 2015-06-27. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  14. "internetarchive/openlibrary · GitHub". Archived from the original on 2015-08-10. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  15. "About the Technology". Archived from the original on 2015-06-27. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  16. "Developers / Licensing". Archived from the original on 2015-06-27. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  17. Doctorow, Cory. "The Internet Archive's Open Library will let you sponsor a book, paying for it to be scanned". BoingBoing. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  18. El-Sabrout, Omar Rafik. "Scan On Demand: Building the World's Open Library, Together". The Open Library Blog. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  19. "Project puts 1M books online for blind, dyslexic |". 2010-05-05. Archived from the original on 2011-12-17. Retrieved 2015-06-26.
  20. "Welcome to Daisy Books for the Print Disabled". Internet Archive. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  21. "NLS Factsheets: Copyright Law Amendment, 1996: PL 104-197". Library of Congress NLS Factsheets. Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 2017-05-21.
  22. Scheid, Maria. "Copyright and Accessibility". Copyright Corner. The Ohio State University Libraries. Archived from the original on 2016-06-30.
  23. The Authors Guild. "Open Letter to Internet Archive and Other Proponents of 'Controlled Digital Lending'". JotForm. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  24. The Society of Authors. "Open letter to Internet Archive about 'Controlled Digital Lending'". JotForm. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  25. "Open Library: copyright infringement". Australian Society of Authors. 2019-01-21.
  26. "Infringement Alert". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. 2018-01-08.
  27. Hasbrouck, Edward (2019-02-13). "NWU denounces 'Controlled Digital Lending'". National Writers Union.
  28. "Controlled Digital Lending (CDL): An appeal to readers and librarians from the victims of CDL". National Writers Union. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  29. Flood, Alison (2019-01-22). "Internet Archive's ebook loans face UK copyright challenge". The Guardian. London.
  30. Strauss, Victoria (2018-02-22). "How the Internet Archive Infringed My Copyrights and Then (Kind Of) Blew Me Off".

Further reading

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