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Last edited by Jessamyn West
February 22, 2016 | History

Reading Books on Open Library

Which books can I read? And how do I find them?

Open Library has millions of records for books that are not yet available in digital form; it also has nearly three million books that are available in digital form. There are a few ways to search Open Library

  • The search box on every page which is also available here. Make sure the "show only ebooks" box is checked. You can get to advanced search options by clicking the "More search options" link to search by ISBN or Publisher among other things.
  • Full text search - this searches inside books that we have the full text for. It currently only works for single word searches.
  • This page on our wiki explains some of the advanced search syntax available for users.
You can also browse Open Library by Subject or Author or look at Lists of books that other users have created.


If this is a library, why can I only read some of the books?

Unfortunately, most books remain unavailable in electronic form. For those books, we have only a record. Open Library is a long-term project to provide a complete catalog of all books and, incrementally, as many of those books as possible in freely available electronic form.


How do I read or download books on Open Library?

Start with a search for a book.

  • Books that are freely available for reading or download will have an open book "read" icon next to them.
  • Books that have a "borrow" closed book icon next to them can be borrowed for up to two weeks by registered users. Go to the borrowing FAQ section for more information on borrowing.
  • Books that have a "lock" icon next to them are only available to those who are blind or visually impaired and registered with the National Library Service of the Library of Congress. Go to the print disabled FAQ section for more information on this program.

You can search for eBooks by checking the box that says "show only eBooks" when you search. This will show Classic books as well as Modern books. To read a Classic book you can choose your format by clicking on it.

  • You will see a link that says "Read online" if a book is available for online reading. When you click on this tab, the book will automatically open up in your browser using the Open Library BookReader.
  • DAISY books are only accessible to the blind and visually impaired, as explained in the print-disabled FAQ section.
  • PDF will start a PDF download.
  • Plain text will show the text produced through an optical character recognition software process.
  • ePub will start an ePub file download. You will need ePub reader software installed on your computer, e-reader, or phone to read this file.
  • DjVu is a format that will stream book page images (not download).
  • Send to Kindle will send the book to your Kindle device. NOTE: This feature works only for Kindle owners in the U.S.


How do I learn more about how BookReader works?

We have online documentation for the BookReader available as well as a mailing list for BookReader development discussion.


Can I read Classic books on my Kindle?

Yes but it can be tricky. You can get Amazon to email you Kindle documents to your phone by making sure your email address is registered with Amazon. You need to go to -> Your Account -> Manage Your Content and Devices -> Settings -> Approved Personal Document Email List` (or click here when logged in) and make sure your email address is there. We're still troubleshooting this feature, please email us with specific questions or use cases. Top

We have a HOWTO page that outlines ways of doing advanced searches for books by author birth date, location or publication date ranges as well as all the other searches. Top

How do I find books written in my language?

Open Library has books in many languages. The best way to find books in your language is to do a search for the language and on the search results page, look at the categories in the right column of the results page and click on the language you are looking for. Here are a few examples


I have found a book but it isn't in a readable format. Is something wrong?

No! This just means that we don't have that book in digitized form yet. You can perform your search again by checking the box that says "show only eBooks" to see if we have might have it anywhere in digitized form. If you don't find it on Open Library, you might want to try other collections of digitized books such as Hathi Trust or Google Books.



February 22, 2016 Edited by Jessamyn West tightening up
February 6, 2016 Edited by Jessamyn West fixed typo
January 28, 2016 Edited by Jessamyn West typo
January 27, 2016 Edited by Jessamyn West advanced search
January 15, 2011 Created by girl2k Edited without comment.