Open Library

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Open Library ( English for Free Library ) is a project for the collaborative creation of an online library based on a bibliographic database. The self-declared aim of the Open Library is to create a separate website for every book published so far. In many cases, in addition to the bibliographical evidence, access to the digitized version of the respective book title with stored full text is made possible.

As a sub-project of the Internet Archive , the Open Library was largely initiated by Brewster Kahle and was officially launched on July 16, 2007. The Open Content Alliance is a partner of the Open Library project .

According to the company's own information, the Open Library now contains 24 million bibliographic records and references and links to 1.2 million digitized books (as of November 2009). The bibliographic data of the Open Library is in the public domain , while the (public domain) source code under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL) is.

The metadata contained in the Open Library comes from publishers, libraries and private individuals. Thanks to a structured wiki , anyone can work on the Open Library and catalog books or edit existing records on works or authors.

The Open Library is not for profit.


According to its own information, the Open Library contains around 30 million data records, 20 million of which are publicly accessible and editable with bibliographic information on books. Around 5% of this is also linked to a digitized version of the corresponding title.

The complete digitized material documented in the Open Library comes predominantly from the book titles stored in the text archive of the Internet Archive and no longer protected by copyright, as well as from the books digitized as part of the Open Content Alliance . Access to these digitized books is usually also via the text archive of the Internet Archive. There are now many titles from Google Book Search . The Internet Archive BookViewer enables you to leaf through digitized books directly in the browser; they are also searchable as an OCR- generated full text has been stored. In many cases, the digital copies are then also available for download in various file formats (including PDF , EPUB , DjVu ).

There is a “scan-on-demand” cooperation with the Boston Public Library : if you come across a public domain book in the Open Library that is in the Boston Public Library's holdings and has not yet been scanned, a button “Scan this book ”is displayed. A click on this button causes a library employee on site to take the book from the shelf and bring it to the “Scanning Center”, where it is digitized for the Open Library.

technical basics

The Open Library uses a Lighttpd server with a FastCGI interface as its web server . The search is based on a Solr search server with a Lucene program library .

Infobase is used as the database, an in-house development that was specially developed for the purposes of the Open Library: It can be used to save and version any structured large amounts of data created by a large number of users . The interface is based on Infogami, a structured wiki based on Python .

Since May 6, 2010 the Open Library has had a new layout and expanded functions. The beta phase has officially ended with the relaunch, but the new version is not yet fully functional.


A form is displayed for cataloging bibliographic data in which the relevant data can be entered. No mandatory fields are defined here. There is a register for the "Author" field that can be expanded by anyone. All other fields do not have a register.

In addition to entering the common bibliographic data, the DDC and LoC classifications can also be entered. In addition, it is possible to include a structured table of contents, a description and the first sentence of the book in the catalog. Users can also upload book covers or pictures of the authors to the metadata of a title.

Retrieval functions

The Open Library offers both a simple and an advanced search. In addition, faceted browsing ( drill-down ) is possible, in which the search results can be modified by switching various filters on and off. A ranking of the hit lists, e.g. B. according to relevance criteria, however, is not possible.

Links with other services

The individual titles in the Open Library contain links to Google Book Search and to booksellers such as Amazon and AbeBooks . In addition, reference is made to the corresponding WorldCat entry in the respective book.

Moreover, there is the possibility of using machine-readable tags from Flickr to link -photos on open library book and author sites.

Various open library APIs enable mash-ups :

  • Various search queries are possible via the REST API. The answer is in JSON or RDF .
  • Information on specific books can be queried via the Books API by specifying the ISBN , OCLC number, LCCN and the Open Library ID OLID. The response is in JSON format.
  • The Covers API allows you to query book cover and author photos in three sizes (small, medium, large). The answer is in JPG format.

Open Library and Libraries

The Library of Congress , the California State Library and the Boston Public Library cooperate with the Open Library (see also the contents of the Open Library). In addition, the catalog data of numerous libraries has already been imported into Open Library. In return, libraries can of course download the metadata recorded in the Open Library via the APIs or bulk download and integrate it into their own catalog. For example, the Cologne University Catalog now contains evidence of 565,000 of the digital copies listed in the Open Library.

OCLC and the British Library, however, do not endorse the Open Library.

Differentiation from LibraryThing

In contrast to LibraryThing , the Open Library is not a web application for managing personal library catalogs and media lists. In addition, the individual copies are not cataloged in Open Library, only the metadata of the books. This also explains the numerical difference: In LibraryThing, more than 45 million books including copy data records are cataloged (as of November 2009), in the Open Library half (only books, no copies). In contrast to LibraryThing, where fees are charged for certain applications, Open Library is completely free. LibraryThing founder Tim Spalding has supported the Open Library since the development phase.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  4. George Oates: Relaunch is complete! May 5, 2010.
  5. Explanation in the Open Library blog , see also the Flickr blog post on machine-readable tags ( Memento from June 30, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  6. Overview of the Open Library APIs
  7. Documentation of the Open Library REST API
  8. Documentation of the Open Library Books API
  9. Here you can find u. a. a list of the libraries that have already submitted data to the Open Library.
  10. Oliver Flimm: 565,000 digitized items from the Open Library in the KUG . ( Memento from December 28, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) OpenBibBlog, June 9, 2009.
  11. ( April 3, 2010 memento on the Internet Archive ) The Open Library's technical director, Aaron Swartz, claims in this blog post that OCLC has tried in various ways in the past to harm the competitor by pressure The Open Library, its financiers or potential co-creators were exercised and requests for cooperation were not answered.
  12. ^ Giles Turnbull: A library bigger than any building . 2007
  13. ( Memento from July 1, 2009 in the Internet Archive )