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Last edited by Jessamyn West
November 9, 2016 | History

About Open Library

Open Library Info

Open Library Services

Video Tutorials on Accessing eBooks on Open Library

You can follow our five step video tutorial to learn about reading and borrowing books on Open Library:



Step 1: Getting StartedStep 2: Searching Open LibraryStep 3: Reading Ebooks OnlineStep 4: Borrowing Modern EbooksStep 5: Reading Classic ebooks

What is Open Library?

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

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. We have well 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 we can. The secondary goal is to get you as close to the actual document you're looking for as we can, whether that is a scanned version courtesy of the Internet Archive, or a link to Powell's where you can purchase your own copy.

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How is the Open Library different from Project Gutenberg?

Project Gutenberg is a place to download and read thousands of free ebooks. Open Library's 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. In other words, we provide access to all of Project Gutenberg's books but we have hundreds of thousands of others as well.

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Have you heard of WorldCat? How is Open Library different?

Yes! We try to link through to WorldCat wherever possible to help you find a book you can actually borrow from a library near you. Open Library's records are available to OCLC.

OCLC is building a catalog to share among libraries, while Open Library is building a catalog to share freely and openly with the public. Our hope is that this will get more people involved in using libraries and, in the long run and generate new data that will be useful to the library community. Open Library links to the WorldCat catalog for any editions we have either an ISBN or an OCLC identifier for. This should help people find a copy of the book in their local library.

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How do I sign up for Open Library?

To create your Open Library digital library card account, click the “sign up” link at the top right corner of our home page, openlibrary.org. You will be prompted to enter the following information:

Full name: (i.e. Jane Doe - this will be visible on your user page)
Username (i.e. janeqdoe - must be all one word, alphanumeric only)
Password: (your choice)
Email address: (name@example.com - so we can email you if you lose your password, we will NEVER spam you)

You must also check the box agreeing to the Open Library Terms of Use before continuing.

Click “sign up” when you are finished. You will receive an email requesting verification of your account. Click the link in the email and you will now be able to sign in and start using Open Library. If you have trouble with the signup process please see our Troubleshooting section or send us an email and we can help.

Once you are registered, click the “log in” link at the top right corner of any page. Enter your username and password. Your name will now appear as a link in the top right corner. Click on the link to display a drop-down menu; here you can edit your Profile, manage your Loans, manage the Lists you create, edit your Settings, or log out.

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How can I contribute information to Open Library?

You can help build the Library. All you need to do is hit the EDIT button and start filling in the gaps.

We 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, and things like that).

Another sort of information we're very interested in 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're a software developer, you might be interested to read a bit more about using Open Library data.

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Where can I see what other people are up to?

There's a ton of activity across Open Library each day, whether it's a visitor updating one of our entries or a bot making a bunch of batch updates. We've tried to make it so you can keep an eye on what's going in a few different ways:

  • Look at our Lending Stats page
  • Check out the "Around The Library" list on the footer of every page
  • Click on the "Recently" link at the top of the page to watch how the place is being updated
  • Click on any person's account name to see what they've been up to
  • On a per-item basis, you can also delve into revision history. We note the last edit at the top of editable pages. You can view revision history as well, and even revert a record to a previous revision.

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Yes, please do! Our parent organization, the Internet Archive, accepts donations of physical books, so, if you have books you'd like to donate, please visit our Book Drive page for instructions.

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I wrote a book, and I have it in digital form. Can I make it readable on Open Library?

Yes! It's a three step process. Here is the short outline and you can read a longer outline on this page.

  1. Create an account and upload your book to the Internet Archive (you will need to set up a second account to do this, you can't log in with your Open Library credentials).
  2. Create a record for your item on Open Library by clicking the Add A Book link in the header and adding the proper information.
  3. Add the Internet Archive ID to the Open Library record in the ID Numbers section. To do this, click Edit to edit the record, scroll down to the ID Numbers section and add the Internet Archive identifier which is the last part of the URL. As an example for this book, the Internet Archive ID is historiaephilipp02just. Adding this link will activate the "read" buttons. Make sure you click "save" at the bottom of the page when you are done adding the link to the Internet Archive.

For more information on the uploading process, please see this blog post about uploading and metadata.

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I have an ebook that I'd like to donate to Open Library. How can I do that?

You can only donate books that you own the rights to yourself. This might be the case if you wrote or published the book, it is likely not the case if you only purchased the book. Please feel free to email us to ask further questions. If you have an ebook you'd like to donate, see the answer above for details on how to get it on to our servers.

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I found a very old book in my basement. Do you want it?

You're welcome to donate books to the Internet Archive through our Book Drive program.

If you are an organization with a collection of material that you would like to donate to the Internet Archive (a registered library in the State of California), please send an email to info@archive.org with details.

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I have a book that I think might be worth something. Can you tell me what it's worth?

Unfortunately, we can not. We have no expertise in the valuation of books. You should try to find a website that specializes in used or rare books. If you don't know of one, just ask at your favorite bookshop. You can also search for the book on a site like bookfinder.com, to see if there are copies of the book on the market. The prices there will give you some sense of the book's value, but the value of rare books can only be determined by physical inspection.

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Can you put me in touch with an author?

No. Open Library team doesn't have any specific contact with any of the authors who have a presence on Open Library so we are unable to help you get in touch with them. Just as every patron on Open Library has his or her own page, every author has his or her own page as well. Author pages provide background information and usually contain a link to the author's website. For example, here is Cory Doctorow's page on Open Library.

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Can you tell me more about a particular book?

No. Everything we know is already on our site. What you see is what you get on Open Library, and everyone (signed in or not) is encouraged to enrich a record with additional information from which we can all benefit.

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Can I buy books from Open Library?

No. We don't have any books to sell, but we provide links when possible to online booksellers that might have the book (new or used). We also link to the worldcat.org website, that has a library locator tool for help in finding a copy of the book to borrow. If you find a book on Open Library that you would like to buy and there is no active bookstore link, try the website bookfinder.com, which will search the Web for copies of that book for sale and at what price.

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Can you send me a copy of a book?

No. But, you can download any ebook that we have available as full text in a variety of formats. Currently we offer over 1.7 million public domain books in PDF, ePub, DAISY, DjVu and ASCII text through our affiliation with the Internet Archive.

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History Created November 9, 2012 · 23 revisions

November 9, 2016 Edited by Jessamyn West Edited without comment.
July 1, 2016 Edited by Jessamyn West added reversion link
March 14, 2016 Edited by Jessamyn West typo fix
February 22, 2016 Edited by Jessamyn West tightened up language
November 9, 2012 Created by Dana Gee created About Open Library page