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Last edited by Edward Betts
July 9, 2010 | History

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Open Library?

The Open Library - a project of the Internet Archive - is an open semantic wiki that aggregates bibliographic metadata from world’s leading
libraries and publishers that includes references to electronic book collections, physical libraries and booksellers.

Our goal is to display a page on the web for every book ever published.

How can I help add or edit information about a particular book?

When you're looking at a book's page, click the edit button within the description section and make your desired edit. Be sure to press save when your edit is complete. (It's also useful if you leave a short note about the edit you made.)

The fields that we have to describe records on Open Library can seem a bit confusing. We've made a page to try to help explain what the different fields are, and provide examples of the sort of data to enter in each.

When I search Open Library, the book I want doesn't show up. Can I create a new page about it in Open Library?

Yes! Absolutely! There's a link called "“Add a Book”" on the home page.

Can Open Library help me value a book that I have?

No, Open Library cannot tell you how much your book is worth. If we know that a book is for sale somewhere, we will display links to the various booksellers who have it available under the "BUY" heading on the right-hand side of the book's page. (If we don't know, there won't be any links under "BUY".)

Can Open Library help sell a book for me?

No, Open Library is not a book store. We actually don't have any physical or electronic books.

How do I search for a particular book on Open Library?

Searching for a book's title is probably the easiest way. You can do that from any search box on Otherwise, use the advanced search to search for things like a particular author, ISBN or full text of a book (if we have access to a scanned version).

How do I search for a particular subject on Open Library?

Subject headings are searchable from the advanced search page.

How can I see all the books by a certain author on Open Library?

You can do an author search via the advanced search page, or, you can simply use this shortcut in the normal search box - "authors:". So, if you want to see all the books we know about by Martin Amis, you could type "authors:(martin amis)" in any search box.

Which book classifications system will you use? Dewey? LC? Tags?

All of the above. We want to have as much classifying information as
possible, so that people and libraries can use whichever mechanisms they

How is the Open Library different from Project Gutenberg?

Project Gutenberg provides text files of a select number of
out-of-copyright books. Our goal is to list every book -- whether
in-print or out-of-print, available at a bookstore or a library, scanned
or typed in as text. We provide pointers to Gutenberg texts as well as
Internet Archive scans as well as Amazon downloads or library

Have you heard of WorldCat? Have you talked to OCLC?

The Open Library is an open source project of the Internet Archive, and has lots of helpers that do not work for and are not directed by the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive has been working to provide resources, such as databases, to the OpenLibrary project.

A major difference between OCLC and the Open Library is that OCLC is building a catalog to share among libraries, while Open Library is
building a catalog to share with the public, with the hope that this will get more people involved in using libraries.

The Internet Archive and OCLC have discussed working together, and hopefully this will yield a joint project, but nothing has been
finalized yet. The plans for the Open Library have been actively shared with OCLC and its records are available to OCLC.

Leveraging the records in WorldCat could mean several things:

  1. Pointing to WorldCat from the Open Library site
  2. Getting records from libraries
  3. Getting records from OCLC

Option (1) has the advantage that it can be done with no agreements, but there would be no integrated user experience like there is at Wikipedia,, or IMDB. Options (2) and (3) are being pursued.

For background, the Internet Archive had a longstanding deal with the Research Libraries Group (RLG) to make RLG digitized book records (as
well as other Internet Archive records) available for free with no restrictions. With RLG now part of
, this deal continues. To date, the Internet Archive has generally retrieved
records from the source library's catalog rather than RLG because of the preference of the source library. These records from the Internet
Archive have been integrated into the Open Library site.

The Internet Archive's catalog is available using the Open Archives Initiative protocol, and in bulk from the
Mellon funded OAIster project, which was designed for metadata harvesting.


July 9, 2010 Edited by Edward Betts correct page type
October 28, 2009 Edited by George Removed some "minor edit" spam.
October 28, 2009 Edited by Anand Chitipothu Edited without comment.
October 15, 2009 Edited by minor edit
March 4, 2009 Created by webchick creating .en FAQ page