Open Library is an online project intended to create "one web page
for every book ever published". Created by Aaron Swartz
, Alexis Rossi,
and Rebecca Malamud,
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
In computer technology and telecommunications, online indicates a state of connectivity and offline indicates a disconnected state. In modern terminology, this usually refers to an Internet connection, but (especially when expressed "on line" o ...
digital copies in multiple formats, created from images of many public domain
, out-of-print, and in-print books.
Book database and digital lending library
Its book information is collected from the Library of Congress
, other libraries, and Amazon.com
, as well as from user contributions through a wiki
If books are available in digital form, a button labeled "Read" appears next to its catalog listing. Digital copies of the contents of each scanned book are distributed as encrypted e-books (created from images of scanned pages), audiobooks and streaming audio (created from the page images using OCR and text-to-speech software), unencrypted images of full pages from OpenLibrary.org and Archive.org, and APIs for automated downloading of page images.
Links to where books can be purchased or borrowed are also provided.
There are different entities in the database:
* 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 over 20 million records in its database. Copies of the contents of tens of thousands of modern books have been made available from 150 libraries and publishers for
An ebook (short for electronic book), also known as an e-book or eBook, is a book publication made available in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, readable on the flat-panel display of computers or other electronic devices. Alt ... controlled 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 available for lending in digital form. In total, the Open Library offers copies of over 1.4 million books for what it calls "digital lending", but critics have called distribution of digital copies a violation of copyright law.
Open Library began in 2006 with Aaron Swartz
as the original engineer and leader of the Open Library's technical team.
The project was led by George Oates
from April 2009 to December 2011. Oates was responsible for a complete site redesign during her tenure. In 2015, the project was continued by Giovanni Damiola
and then Brenton Cheng
and Mek Karpeles
The site was redesigned and relaunched in May 2010. Its codebase is on GitHub
. The site uses Infobase, its own database framework based on
PostgreSQL (, ), also known as Postgres, is a free and open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) emphasizing extensibility and SQL compliance. It was originally named POSTGRES, referring to its origins as a successor to the Ing ...
, and Infogami, its own
Wiki software (also known as a wiki engine or a wiki application), is collaborative software that runs a wiki, which allows the users to create and collaboratively edit pages or entries via a web browser. A wiki system is usually a web applicati ...
written in Python
. The source code to the site is published under the
GNU Affero General Public License
The GNU Affero General Public License (GNU AGPL) is a free, copyleft license published by the Free Software Foundation in November 2007, and based on the GNU General Public License, version 3 and the Affero General Public License.
The Free Sof ...
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.". The feature was developed by Mek Karpeles, Tabish Shaikh,
and other members of the community.
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 using the DAISY Digital Talking Book
. Under certain provisions of United States copyright law, libraries are sometimes able to reproduce copyrighted works in formats accessible to users with disabilities.
Copyright violation accusations
The Open Library has justified its ability to offer full contents of books in digital formats as part of the
The first-sale doctrine (also sometimes referred to as the "right of first sale" or the "first sale rule") is an American legal concept that limits the rights of an intellectual property owner to control resale of products embodying its intellec ...
Fair use is a doctrine in United States law that permits limited use of copyrighted material without having to first acquire permission from the copyright holder. Fair use is one of the limitations to copyright intended to balance the interes ...
The Open Library owns a physical copy of each book that they have made available, and thus argue that the lending out of one digital scan of the book in a controlled manner falls within the first-sale doctrine, a practice known as Controlled Digital Lending
and in use by multiple public and academic libraries.
Since its launch, the Open Library has been accused of mass copyright violation by numerous groups,
including the American Authors Guild
the British Society of Authors
the Australian Society of Authors
, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
, the US National Writers Union
, 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". The UK Society of Authors
threatened legal action in 2019 unless the Open Library agreed to cease distribution of copyrighted works.
The Open Library further came under criticism from several authors and publishers groups when it created the National Emergency Library
in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
in March 2020. Under these exigent circumstances, the National Emergency Library removed the waitlists of all books in its Open Library collection and allowed any number of digital copies of a book to be downloaded as an encrypted file that would be unusable after two weeks, asserting that this unlimited borrowing was a reasonable exception under the national emergency to allow educational functions to continue since physical libraries and bookstores were forced to be shuttered.
The Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, the National Writers Union, and others argued that this allowed unlimited copyright infringement and denied revenues from distribution of authorized digital copies of books to authors who also needed relief during the COVID-19 national emergency.
Though the Open Library asserted that the copies of entire books in e-book format were still encrypted and the unlimited borrowing was for educational purposes, the National Writers Union asserted that images of each page of each book could still be accessed on the Web without encryption or other controls.
Four major publishers—
Hachette Hachette may refer to:
* Hachette (surname)
* Hachette (publisher), a French publisher, the imprint of Lagardère Publishing
** Hachette Book Group, the American subsidiary
** Hachette Distribution Services, the distribution arm
* Hachett ...
Penguin Random House
Penguin Random House LLC is an Anglo-American multinational conglomerate publishing company formed on July 1, 2013, from the merger of Penguin Group and Random House.
On April 2, 2020, Bertelsmann announced the completion of its purchase ...
John Wiley & Sons
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., commonly known as Wiley (), is an American multinational publishing company founded in 1807 that focuses on academic publishing and instructional materials. The company produces books, journals, and encyclopedias, in ...
, and HarperCollins
, all members of the
Association of American Publishers
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) is the national trade association of the American book publishing industry. AAP lobbies for book, journal, and education publishers in the United States. AAP members include most of the major commercial ...
—filed a lawsuit in the Southern New York Federal District Court
against the Internet Archive in June 2020, asserting the Open Library project violated numerous copyrights. In their suit, the publishers claimed "Without any license or any payment to authors or publishers, he Internet Archive
scans print books, uploads these illegally scanned books to its servers, and distributes verbatim digital copies of the books in whole via public-facing websites. With just a few clicks, any Internet-connected user can download complete digital copies of in-copyright books from he
defendant." The publishers were represented by the law firms Davis Wright Tremaine
and Oppenheim + Zebrak
. The Internet Archive ended the National Emergency Library on June 16, 2020, instead of the intended June 30 date, and requested the publishers to "call off their costly assault".
* Free Software licensing
Project Gutenberg (PG) is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, as well as to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks."
It was founded in 1971 by American writer Michael S. Hart and is the oldest digital libr ...
Google Books (previously known as Google Book Search, Google Print, and by its code-name Project Ocean) is a service from Google Inc. that searches the full text of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical ...
LibraryThing is a social cataloging web application for storing and sharing book catalogs and various types of book metadata. It is used by authors, individuals, libraries, and publishers.
Based in Portland, Maine, LibraryThing was developed ...
* List of AGPL web applications
List of digital library projects
This is a list of digital library projects.
* Bibliographic database
* List of academic databases and search engines
* List of online databases
* List of online encyclopedias
* List of open-access journals
* List of search engines
* Online Public Access Catalog
* (Text of the speech given by Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, at the launch of the Open Library in October 2005)
Aggregation-based digital libraries
Free software programmed in Python
American digital libraries
Internet Archive projects
Internet properties established in 2006
Software using the GNU AGPL license
Bibliographic databases and indexes