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Open Library Project Takes Flight 126

Aaron Swartz today announced the launch of the new Open Library project. The goal of the project is to produce the world's greatest library on the Internet free for anyone to use. Starting with the Internet Archive's book scanning project and organizing the insertion of new content via a wiki-type model the project seems to be off to a great start. The demo, source code, and mailing lists were all opened up today in hopes of drawing interest from the public at large.
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Open Library Project Takes Flight

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  • Awesome (Score:2, Funny)

    by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 )
    Project Gutenberg(sp) never really had a large enough selection to interest me. I would like to see how they do this new library.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Well, you can thank extensive copyright for that fact.

      Go Disney.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by lambent ( 234167 )
      Not enough of a selection? From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Gutenberg [wikipedia.org]: "As of April 2007, Project Gutenberg claimed over 21,000 items in its collection." There has to be something in there. Somehow, I think you're probably not trying hard enough.
      • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

        by illegalcortex ( 1007791 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @07:22PM (#19882287)
        Yes, I particularly enjoyed Human Genome Project, Chromosome Number 08. Some fine reading there. [gutenberg.org]

        C'mon, I would be fairly disappointed with a library of 21,000 real books even if it contained only fiction from random authors from 1900-2000. Gutenberg doesn't even have that much depth.

        That's not to take anything away from them. But to make claims about it being a good selection based on "21,000 - gee that's a big number" is a bit ludicrous.
        • As another poster mentioned, you can thank extensive copyright for that. Most books written between 1900 and 2000 are still under copyright, and therefore can't be in project gutenburg. I don't like most of the stuff in project gutenburg either, but it's the best we can hope for with the current state of copyrights.
          • Oh, I don't deny that. I hate the system as much as anyone. My comment was solely on the mistake of implying that the 21,000 "titles" were things people would read.
      • by meiao ( 846890 )
        The problem with Project Gutenberg is that it only has Public Domain works.
        So you won't find any work about Java, Ruby, nor Network Administration.

        You may find such in http://en.wikibooks.org/ [wikibooks.org]
    • The new site looks like it will host info on books and only provide downloads for some. It looks like a good place to find info (like the ISBN) of an old book you only remember parts of.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by maddskillz ( 207500 )
        That's what I was thinking. Sounds a lot like what http://www.librarything.com/ [librarything.com] already does. Of course, they already have a big head start
      • It's bigger than that though. They are attempting to create the central clearing house for access to book information. This is less of an imdb, and more of a Library of Congress size endeavor. Whereas imdb only has to deal with a a limited number of new monthly movies, these guys are attempting to deal with the thousands of new monthly books and the millions of previous ones :)

        They are adding all sorts of new internet touches, like tags and metadata far in advance to what libraries have been keeping prev
        • >>the central clearing house for access to book information

          Good luck to them, though they have an uphill climb ahead.

          Putting aside LibraryThing for the moment, there already exists a central worldwide clearing house for access to book information: WorldCat [worldcat.org], operated by OCLC.

          OCLC is a pretty sharp bunch, and very tied in to Google as well as Google Books. They have already done the collective cataloguing of more than 1 billion items (and that includes audio books, music, videos, etc., as well as

  • by Yaksha42 ( 856623 )
    Everything about this "Open Library" - from the colors to the fonts used - looks just like Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org]. Am I missing an important difference?

    Perhaps this is going to contain books still under copyright? I doubt the full text will be available, which makes this "library" pretty useless.
    • by drMental ( 60513 )
      Well what you are missing is seeing the grandeur of this enterprise, not only does it hold the books of Project Gutenberg, it _also_ holds links to amazon.com.
      • Mod parent up (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        She is correct. This is not a 'library' per se but a catalog of books, with links to PG, Amazon, B&N, etc. Most books are NOT free.

        The difference between this and other catalogs (Library of Congress, etc.) is that presumably you can customize it more.
  • by CaptainPatent ( 1087643 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @06:43PM (#19881987) Journal
    FALTWSBTFA: (From a link to what should be the feature article [openlibrary.org])

    What if there was a library which held every book? Not every book on sale, or every important book, or even every book in English, but simply every book
    It would probably be sued for copyright infringement.
    • by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday July 16, 2007 @06:53PM (#19882077) Homepage Journal
      I find it depressing that if someone came up with the concept of a free library system today, they would be sued out of existence by the book companies. What is perhaps one of the greatest triumphs ever for the poor uneducated masses would not stand a chance in our current legal environment.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by timeOday ( 582209 )
        Speaking of which, do you think people would be allowed to drive cars or own guns if they were invented today? I don't.

        Anyways, the good news is that libraries do exist, and aren't going away. If the electronic library is to exist, it should be pursued as an extension of existing libraries. In other words, we must ensure that electronic access to text grows out of the familiar library setting, not Napster. There are lots of ways to do this.

        For instance, current library filing systems are really jus

        • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Monday July 16, 2007 @08:48PM (#19882845) Homepage Journal
          Anyways, the good news is that libraries do exist, and aren't going away.

          No, of course not, because they're protected by copyright law, which in turn grew out of article 1, section 8 of the constitution. Just there will never be a restriction on keeping and bearing arms... uh, oh, wait. OK then, like there will never be restrictions on speech... no, no, turns out there are plenty of those. Mmmm, ok, just like the feds can only take action on interstate commerce, because you know, that's an enumerated power they can't step outside... aw, no, they do that all the time. Well, it'll be like how they can't do searches or seizures without probable cause, oath or affirmation, and a warrant... oh... I guess that's no longer true. Well, of course they can't make ex post facto laws... except for the ones they've made, that is, you know, thinking of the children and such.

          Wait. Why is it again libraries "aren't going away?"

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Wait. Why is it again libraries "aren't going away?"

            Aside from the already mentioned fact that all books aren't digitized, it may be because Internet access is not universal, the barrier to access is still high (computers aren't free, right?) and one of the few places that you can get free access and access to a device to do it is, of course, a library.

      • by PCM2 ( 4486 )
        Copyright law is no threat to libraries. And book publishers certainly aren't looking to close them down.

        The truth of the book publishing business today is that the American public, on the whole, just doesn't read very much. Libraries, on the other hand, stock books -- multiple copies of books, in many cases. And there are thousands of libraries in America.

        How do they get all those books? They buy them.

        Each year, public libraries buy thousands and thousands of books -- books that individual readers aren't b
        • by jandrese ( 485 )
          I've also bought way more music online that I ever did on CD (I hate trying to find stuff in record stores, especially since my tastes aren't mainstream). That didn't stop the music industry from totally flipping out over the idea of digital sales, and just think about what they did to free online music. I think you overestimate the average corporation if you think they would realize that libraries would be good for them in the long run. They would just see someone using their tax dollars to let people r
          • I've bought more online than I ever did as well. First with p2p, heavily non-mainstream. Usually a fairly high percentage of off label stuff. Then, since pandora and lastfm I've bought even more. The thing is though, it's been 100% non-label. And I think that's what they're worried about.
      • i'd guess that there are more than a few librarians who are uncomfortable about their position regarding piracy. they're expected to support copyright, but are also expected to spread knowledge; the two aren't necessarily very compatible.

        anyway, book sellers generally like libraries, since they generate a lot of positive side-effects, at a more noticable level than p2p piracy typically does; people that wouldn't have bought a book read it and tell their friends, for example -- not to mention that libraries
      • >>a free library system today

        Personally, I find it depressing that so many people don't know that there are free libraries operating. They are generally called "public" libraries. Publishers don't sue them out of existence because libraries buy the copies of the books they circulate, and the publishers make money from that.

        Go to worldcat [worldcat.org], look up a book you like, and then type your zip code or city and state into the localization box - you'll probably find there's a copy near you that yo

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Even in these litigation-happy days, physical book libraries don't get sued, and indeed they normally get direct governmental funding to continue their work.

      If an electronic library can find a way to obtain support as a literacy project, there are plenty of traditional avenues open. Suits against council literacy efforts don't go down well, at least in Europe.
      • Even in these litigation-happy days, physical book libraries don't get sued...


        Of course not, because they've paid for their copies. Makes a difference, doncha know?

        • Of course not, because they've paid for their copies. Makes a difference, doncha know?
          --
          There is no such word as "alot," and if there is, there shouldn't be. It's "a lot." Two words, not one.

          There is no such word as "doncha," and if there is, there shouldn't be. It's "don't you." Two words, not one.
          • by joto ( 134244 )

            There is no such word as "doncha," and if there is, there shouldn't be. It's "don't you." Two words, not one.

            It's interesting you should note that. I would like to point out that it's actually three words: "do not you". The word "don't" is a contraction of "do" and "not", which has somehow found its way into spelling as well as in verbal usage.

            The word "doncha" is common enough that I, a man who does not live in an english-speaking country, and does not have english as my first language, has been expose

            • In other words, it's up to you to document that "doncha" is not current usage, if you are to claim it's not a word.
              Look up sarcasm [m-w.com] and then read my post again.

              Now, it is up to you to document that my post wasn't sarcasm, if you are to claim my post was sarcastic.
          • by HeroreV ( 869368 )
            Doncha wish your words rolled off your tongue like me?
            Doncha wish your words had no apostrophe?
            Doncha?
            Doncha baby, doncha?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      As an anonymous coward with little desire to register at this point I would like to say that such an Open Library should be labeled as the "wonder" of our digital age. All you cynics complaining about copyright are being too idealistic at this point (irony is fun). The website clearly stated that it will catalog information on where to buy or borrow (from brick libraries) the books it lists. This alone would be a great source, and even still many books WILL be offered online.

      Perhaps such a project would
    • Where are the Pirate Bay kiddies on this? Wouldn't that fit their idea of all the information belonging to 'the people?'

      Or does it only apply to stealing popular movies and music?
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        There's an assload of ebook torrents. What I want, and which I hoped just for a second this might provide, is a way to get access to science journals. The public is becoming more and more ignorant of science every day. The journals are locked up in ivory towers, public libraries usually don't have the funding to get subscriptions, and as a result every day more and more people are falling for faith healers and the like. I'll be able to pirate the next harry potter hours after it's released, if not sooner. J
        • >>a way to get access to science journals

          Fortunately there is a way. Universities offer community cards to local users, usually for about $25 a year. With a community card, you can access science journals online, plus borrow from their book, music, etc. collections.

        • >quote> and as a result every day more and more people are falling for faith healers and the like. /begin rant And more and more scientists/technologists (they aren't the same, after all) are forgetting that faith in something is an unavoidable part of living, working, and playing. It might be faith in reason, in the "scientific" method, and "empirical" evidence. But it is still faith. No scientist, and no engineer, can take every assumption back to first principles. Or does. No empirical evide
          • And as evidence of the extent of that ignorance, and of the problem I claimed, I submit to you the formatting of my previous post.

            I was so caught up in the superiority of my educated understanding, I made a newbie's error and forgot some basics of how HTML-formatted text works.

            The capacity of the educated to be unaware of their moronitude knows no bounds!

            Ahem.

            (And yes, moronitude is not a word, I'm sure.)
  • Have these guys not heard of Project Gutenburg [gutenberg.org] ?

    It's been around for years, and I thought it was pretty well-known.
    • Re:Project Gutenburg (Score:5, Informative)

      by AaronSw ( 598481 ) <me@aaronsw.com> on Monday July 16, 2007 @06:53PM (#19882075) Homepage
      Hi, Aaron Swartz here. Project Gutenberg is about putting up text versions of out-of-copyright books. This project is about creating a catalog of _every_ book, with links to PG, scans, Amazon.com, PDFs, print on demand, etc. -- anything we can get our hands on. Gutenberg books are in our catalog, of course, but so are millions more.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        So, its like the Library of Congress that links to your Amazon Referral Page?

        Talk about sleazy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
        I've been using the openlibrary.org site for a while now. I find these scanned original pages FAR more restful to the eye than any other form of electronic book. This way, I can sit down and read a complete book on the screen -- without suffering the eye fatigue that comes from reading large swaths of ordinary onscreen text. I think it has a lot to do with print fonts being designed specifically for the eye, and somewhat to do with the normal yellowing of paper that produces a less glary background.

        Also, ma
        • by PMBjornerud ( 947233 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @08:22PM (#19882683)

          I find these scanned original pages FAR more restful to the eye than any other form of electronic book. This way, I can sit down and read a complete book on the screen -- without suffering the eye fatigue that comes from reading large swaths of ordinary onscreen text. I think it has a lot to do with print fonts being designed specifically for the eye, and somewhat to do with the normal yellowing of paper that produces a less glary background.
          This does not make sense. A scanned document will always have artifacts and imperfections from the scanning process and should by definition be harder to read. A well-sized font on a pleasant background should beat scannded text every single time.

          Your issue is more likely that there are a lot of crappily designed webpages out there.

          If you're reading "large swaths of ordinary onscreen text", do this:
          - Copy-paste in into any word processor
          - Choose a nice, big font. (Small is good for UI, not for 400-page-novels.)
          - Use a dark background. A page reflects light, a screen projects it. You do not want glaring white.
          - Use 8-10 words per line.
          - Profit! Err... less mental exhaustation, at least.

          Pay extra attention to words per line. It's a key reason onscreen text is often hard to read. Too many words per line, and you'll have a mental overhead every few seconds trying to figure out which line you just read and which is next. Basically, books do it right and you want to display onscreen text at a similar width. Scrolling is easy these days, and wide lines is a remnant from when computers required a click-and-drag to scroll.

          Wide books and newspapers are divided into columns. There is a reason for doing this, but almost nobody seemed to think about that when they display text on screens.

          Heck, even slashdot defaults to a glaring white background and text stretched all over my 1920 pixels. Go figure.
          • Wide books and newspapers are divided into columns. There is a reason for doing this, but almost nobody seemed to think about that when they display text on screens.

            For me, quite the coincidence to run across you comment. Just in the past few days I have taken to resizing my browser to half the width of the screen - like folding a newspaper - because I realized that my eyes tire when reading lines of text running the entire 1280 pixel width of my monitor. It seems to work out great - I am even reading S

            • by jrl87 ( 669651 )
              I don't know if there is a good way of doing it directly through firefox, but I know you can add an user style sheet through the web developer plugin (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/6 0 )

              In the case of ./ you just have to make a css file with the following code in it ...

              #wrapper {
              background: #ccc; /*put desired background color here*/
              color: #999; /*font color*/
              }

              Of course, this isn't a very good solution for browsing because it seems to remove the style sheet every time the page changes and

            • by islisis ( 589694 )
              I would like such an option of every app I use. Even if I can't choose the specific colours, a window manager option to invert colours would at least allow me to use 2000's technology without thinking it has de-evolved since the original terminal displays in terms of low-intensity screen reading.

              In the e-book front Adobe Reader has the option to do this for text documents but not bitmap (honestly I have to take extreme steps to format most pdf documents to be screen readable, adjusting crop margins to kill
            • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
              Try the low bandwidth option, and a browser that don't know no CSS. The result is essentially plain text. That's what I see when I come here. :)

              Moz/Firefox has a problem with ignoring system colours, but good old Netscape 3 does not -- so I get slashdot with the grey background I use everywhere else. Much easier on these aging, glare-sensitive eyes.

              I've noticed that more and more people use a browser fullscreen, no matter how wide that is, then they wonder why they can't FIND stuff on the screen... When I d
          • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
            For me, Slashdot defaults to 12pt Times New Roman, on a grey background (thanks to good old braindead Netscape3 and the low-bandwidth option), in a window about 750 pixels wide. I can't use the default layout at all, it makes my eyes crazy. And as you say, most web pages are clueless about design for *reading*.

            I should have specified that I find the scanned books more eye-restful than not only the plain old screen, but also the ebook readers that I use, which allow me to select font, size, line length, page
        • I think it has a lot to do with print fonts being designed specifically for the eye,

          And screen fonts aren't? That's just plain wrong. IMO, you're better off with a font that's been designed for on-screen use, at a font size and spacing that's appropriate for your monitor, viewing distance and eyesight. Reading a book in Arial 10 on your 20" 1600 x 1200 monitor will induce headaches. Switch to a font like Verdana, increase size to something like 14pt and things will get a lot easier.

          The non-white background
          • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
            Screen fonts are not quite the same. But...

            For ebooks, I use a very configurable reader, that lets me pick font, size, page width, and background. With paper books, large fonts tire my brain out (I think because they induce slower reading speed than my norm, which is about 800wpm) but for ebooks and screen fonts, it seems to work the other way around. Might be partly that a book is 15" from my eyes, whereas the monitor is ideally about 4 feet away.

            Unlike most folk, I almost never use maximized windows. On a
        • >>many of these old texts, especially popular fiction from the late 1800s, have been discarded by meatspace libraries, so are otherwise pretty much unavailable

          I agree that this is a problem - "meatspace" (ick) libraries have space limitations, and they usually base their "weeding", or removing of books from the collection, on circulation statistics. Most people these days don't want to read old, obscure 19th century novels (I'm an exception, like you). I find them in used booksto

          • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
            So, your bookshelf has lots of weird old novels too, eh? :) A lot of them were really very good books in their own way, written to be a relaxing read, not to be studied and analyzed. Sortof the "TV and a beer after work" of their era. But your average relaxing read doesn't attract literature professors, so as the generations pass and the next popular book hits the shelves, the old ones fall out of memory. But they were the books our great-grandparents read and loved.

            It bothers me greatly that libraries cul
      • Re:Project Gutenburg (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Fallingcow ( 213461 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @08:58PM (#19882897) Homepage
        What I really want are some modern, well-written footnotes and introductions to older works. Maybe throw in some good annotated maps when appropriate.

        Older books are often hard to relate to without some context, and that sort of thing is what makes or breaks many editions of the "classics", IMO. If, when shopping for books, I pick up a copy of a book that was written more than 200 years or so ago, and it has no foot notes, most of the time I won't buy it. This is doubly true of translated works.

        Wikipedia can usually stand in for an introduction, but there's nothing like footnotes to get you closer to an older text, and nothing that I know of provides that. If someone started a project to provide that kind of information for Project Gutenberg books, I'd get on board to help. Bonus points if they're also putting them in formats that don't suck (making plain text look good on the screen is a pain in the ass).

        I'd start it up myself, but alas, I am poor (college). I'd definitely help out if someone else got it going, though.

        Until someone does that, PG is practically useless to me.

        Will this project do anything like that, or do you know of anyone who's doing this?

        It seems to me that 500-1,000 really well-edited, footnoted, and formatted free books are better than 21,000 books worth of plain-text barf.

        • The goal of Project Gutenberg is to reproduce books as faithfully as they can. They stick to an out-of-copyright edition and reproduce about everything, including non-trivial errors (with a note explaining there is an error) and formatting, now that they produce HTML versions. At least it is the philosophy now at PGDP, which is the main source of books in PG. Earlier texts were less strict about it.

          The ebook produced can then be used by other people if they want to create a new edition with footnotes, corre
        • by Teancum ( 67324 )
          I'm confused a little bit about what you are talking about here. You are looking for original source material, but you are also insisting on having extensive bibliogrphies and footnotes.

          If you have ever read a "Featured Article" quality Wikipedia entry, they will almost always have very extensive bibliographies, footnotes, and links to original source documents, so this statement that you are looking for this seems like you are missing something essential here.

          Or that you are looking at older books that do
          • Bibliographies? No, unless it's appropriate, in which case it's probably part of the text already.

            Footnotes can be downright necessary to getting much out of older works. Try reading just about any ancient Greek or Roman author, or Medieval, or anything before 1800 for that matter, and really understanding all of it without informational footnotes to clue you in to things. Hell, Shakespeare is full of vocabulary that most people will never encounter outside of those works, but that's an easy case where o
            • by Teancum ( 67324 )
              OK, so you are talking about annotated texts. Wikisource has a number of those, as does Wikibooks (much better done on Wikisource IMHO).

              Annotated texts are exactly as you are describing them: They take an older work (say the '''Holy Bible''' to give a strong example of something very commonly footnoted and annotated) and add additional details including glossaries, alternative text, historical information from other sources, and speculative commentary about specific wording.

              Another kind of very typical "b
              • Sorry for my poor choice of words; annotated is more accurate.

                I've been to wikibooks, but was under the impression that they were more concerned with writing from-scratch instructional books than anything else. The site seemed sparcely-populated and more than a little neglected the last time I looked at it, but they seem to have made good progress since then.

                They need publicity more than anything else, I'd say. If more learned individuals with a passion for their field and lots of free time (*cough*profes
                • by Teancum ( 67324 )
                  There are a couple of full professors that I am aware of (and not like the Essjay affair) that are contributing to Wikibooks, and a few "class projects" where a professor has assigned grades based upon a student's participation in the creation of content for a particular joint project, but you are correct that many of the books do tend to be single author projects with only occasional extra contributions.

                  The atmosphere does tend to be much less charged than on Wikipedia, and a much longer view to just about
      • So are you competing with Google Books?
  • someone asked a good question on the website; how does this relate to Gutenburg?

    http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page [gutenberg.org]

    they have a great collection of ebooks online already and your free to grab and share them. I wish that they would have the base for this though in a country which doesn't have insanely long copyright laws, then it could really add value over gutenburg
  • Relevance? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cdrguru ( 88047 )
    As long as it is limited to rather dusty tomes that are "out of copyright" this is going to have limited, if not zero, value to most people. What exactly is the difference between Open Library and Project Gutenberg? Aren't they going to have 99% overlapping content?

    • Project Gutenberg is a collection of full text works.
      The Open Library is a database of books, which sometimes includes the full scanned text, and sometimes does not.

      So if the same work was published a dozen different times, it would have an entry in The Open Library for each edition, and usually just one entry in Project Gutenberg assembled from all of the out-of-copyright printed editions.
  • wikipedia 2.0 (Score:2, Interesting)

    so basically they are building a library that works a lot like Wikipedia but it is like an online library [creative commons I presume] how do they incorporate editing into the system without it having the same problems that wikipedia has? what does the project do that couldn't just as easily be done by expanding Wikipedia? any thoughts?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by The Iso ( 1088207 )
      It's called Wikisource. Mod this article redundant.
      • wikipedia is just peoples pesudo expert knowledge. open libary is actual books.
        • Then again, one must keep in mind that 85% of 'actual books' are written by pseudo-experts anyway; if Theodore Sturgeon has taught us anything, it is this.
          • Amen. Primary source material or nothing when it comes to trying to actually get to the heart of anything.
        • by Teancum ( 67324 )
          You missed the reference. The parent was referring to http://www.wikisource.org/ [wikisource.org], one of the Wikipedia sister projects that works with original source materials.... and yes, actual books.

          Often criticized as a duplication of Project Gutenberg, it does have some unique documents that you can't find elsewhere, and is *much easier* to add new documents to this project than say PG or other free text websites. I like Distributed Proofreader's approach to text quality quite a bit, but this is an alternative.
      • by ozphx ( 1061292 )
        Wikisource is copyleft.

        This is for the other 99.99% of content.
  • Take flight? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "Taking flight" normally denotes escape from a perilous situation, not emergence as is intended by the author.

    Mod me down if you must but it's annoying when otherwise intelligent people cannot write a simple sentence and the editors are so lax in their responsibilities.

    I must be new here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
      Actually, you're wrong -- to "take flight" primarily means to take off, or to start a project. So the usage was correct.

      • by muszek ( 882567 )
        take flight
          v : run away quickly; "He threw down his gun and fled" [syn: flee,
          fly]

        taked from the Gnome's "Dictionary look up" panel widget. I have no idea which dictionary(-ies) is/are being used by it.
  • I know their intentions are good, but for these various online text-searchable book projects to be of maximum usefulness, they really need to be merged into one big project. Or, at the very least, a search engine needs to be set up that will search them all. Right now I basically just stick to Google Books, although I'm fully aware that the content I'm looking for but can't find is likely out there in one of the other few dozen open library projects.
  • by krelian ( 525362 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @07:19PM (#19882275)
    Don't compare this to Project Gutenberg. This is the supposed to be the Internet Movie Database" [imdb.com] for books (as far as I understand anyway). Anyway, I am pretty sure that a big part of this information can filled with calls to Amazon web services.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dwarfsoft ( 461760 )
      This is exactly what I was going to say. It is basically an overview of books with links to Amazon or wherever. I forsee reviews, quotes, and links on par with IMDB. Only there is a benefit of being able to have full-text books too.

      I had a play with it and it is quite limited at the moment. I did manage to add a book, but there was minimal instruction on how to go about this, and uploading covers at the moment is not available (as far as I could determine in 5 minutes anyway).
      • by webmind ( 715974 )

        This is exactly what I was going to say. It is basically an overview of books with links to Amazon or wherever. I forsee reviews, quotes, and links on par with IMDB. Only there is a benefit of being able to have full-text books too.

        So it's not like a library at all? in a library I can -read- books. Atleast that's always been the main point for me to go :)
        I fail to see how this will be anything better than gutenberg in that respect. Maybe the interface, but I'm not sure, it's all a bit too flashy for me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hcdejong ( 561314 )
      Except that they'll also store and supply the books themselves (scanned and/or as text), if available.
  • How is this going to be different than the Internet Public Library? http://www.ipl.org/ [ipl.org]
    • Re:IPL? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TTK Ciar ( 698795 ) * on Monday July 16, 2007 @08:04PM (#19882569) Homepage Journal

      OpenLibrary is a lot more complete, for one .. searching on "Ogorkiewicz" in IPL yielded no hits, while OL gave me several. The Archive is well-connected to various institutions like the Library of Congress and Bibliotech, and is able to pull a lot of help from these other organizations into making a more complete service.

      OpenLibrary is also a catalog of metadata, providing information for each book like physical format, publisher, ISBN#, number of pages, and so on. This metadata has a lot of holes for now, but hopefully that will change as publishers and/or people who own copies of these books fill in the blanks, much like the Internet Movie Database.

      Finally, OpenLibrary has its own staff which is dedicated to working with Internet Archive partners to make this the most complete catalog on the planet. IPL is cool (I like it!) but it does not seem to be very actively maintained.

      (disclaimer: I work for The Internet Archive, but I do not speak for it, and the OpenLibrary team is in a completely different department from mine so DO NOT treat this post as necessarily any more authorative or correct than any other slashdot post.)

      -- TTK

      • I see! Well now, that sounds very promising indeed! Thanks for clarifying all that for me. I'm really excited about this and know it will be tremendously successful. It may take a while, but it's certainly a good start.

      • >>searching on "Ogorkiewicz" in IPL yielded no hits, while OL gave me several

        Worldcat [worldcat.org] yielded 80 hits, which could be refined by author and included works in which Ogorkiewicz' work is cited.

  • is an error like this:

    <type 'exceptions.TypeError'> at /search
    unbound method remove_node() must be called with LRU instance as first argument (got NoneType instance instead)Python /1/pharos/code/production/pharos/infogami/tdb/tdb. py in remove_node, line 607
    Web GET http://demo.openlibrary.org/search

    Traceback (innermost first)
    /1/pharos/code/production/pharos/infogami/ tdb/tdb.py in remove_node
    ...
    node = LRU.remove_node(node) ...
    &#9654; Local vars
  • This is great news, I hope it actually works. Related: I recently discovered my local library has about 50% of the books I usually buy. Why didn't I think of this earlier? Must of lost about $10K from that during the last decade. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go check out a copy of "How to Make a Your Very Own Video Game in 16 Days Using ONLY...Wordstar!"
  • Gutenburg (Score:1, Redundant)

    by jshriverWVU ( 810740 )
    Uhm, it's kinda already done with Project Gutenburg and Librivox. How is this different?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wootest ( 694923 )
      By being a listing/index/catalog of all books with references to where to get them instead of being a site dedicated to reproducing the source material of stuff in the public domain, perhaps?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    But I'm sure it'll come down to some banner ad/mining user data scheme. Books are old hat today, I've been cleaning house on reference and history books that are still useful if not the most current. This is also in direct contradiction to the way most librarians are seeing the world. They're gearing towards a future of information--it's all in databases and online sources, never mind books, even if condensed as online parcels on information, are still useful. The metadata/database descriptor field they
    • >>My dream would be the Library of Congress becoming the online resource with ... links to where you can buy OR borrow them

      WorldCat [worldcat.org] provides this, at least for the borrowing part. If you want to shop for a book you find there, you can copy the ISBN number from WorldCat's record to Amazon.com or your favored online bookseller (or Google Books, for that matter).

  • Kinakuta (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EnsilZah ( 575600 ) <EnsilZah AT Gmail DOT com> on Monday July 16, 2007 @10:51PM (#19883695)
    How about placing the servers somewhere where copyright law hold no sway?
    Are there really any working data havens?
  • Vandalism controls? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Creosote ( 33182 ) on Monday July 16, 2007 @11:25PM (#19883933) Homepage

    First thing I did on the site was pull up an entry for a book my university press publishes. It had no "Buy" option. I edited the metadata to add the ISBN-10 number for it, and voila, a Buy option.

    It then took a certain amount of self-control for me not to go into various titles dealing with George W. Bush and enter the ISBN-10 of the storybook [amazon.com] containing "My Pet Goat". Purely as a proof of concept, you understand.

    This is simply the Wikipedia vandalism problem writ large. What controls will OpenLibrary put in place to guard against it?

  • Some thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by harmonica ( 29841 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2007 @05:24AM (#19885453)
    I know the project is just starting, but here it goes.

    They should republish the raw data the same way Wikipedia and even IMDb does. I for one am not going to contribute to any data collection project that I can't later use myself.

    Their schema [openlibrary.org] doesn't differentiate between editions. If I understand it right, that means that for the 3000 existing editions of "Tom Sawyer" released over the years, by different publishers in different countries and languages, the book's description has to be replicated for each one. That can't be good. I don't have a quick solution to this myself. Sometimes (esp. with tech books), a new edition changes content significantly compared to the previous one, sometimes they're exactly the same.

    Collecting the cover images is a great service. However, doesn't this infringe on the publisher's copyright? Is this still fair use? What about countries like Germany without fair use laws--will German books still be OK because the data is collected in the USA (I guess)?

    Add a feature to upload book descriptions as XML. Suggest a DTD. I have a list of my book collection stored as an XML file, so have others (maybe not natively, but book collection management software usually has an export function). It should be possible to automate the process of adding book information already stored in some digital format.

    There should be some category system to pick from. Some may put Tom sawyer into "Novel, USA antebellum", others into "Novel, USA 19th century".

    Somehow connect this to Wikipedia. The more prominent books have article pages. Maybe data could be retrieved from it as well. There are currently Tom Sawyer articles in 16 or so languages.

    The edit page should group items better: stuff everyone understands (year published, title) first, then those things only specialists know.

    The edit page's descriptors shouldn't be images but text which links to an explanation page for the same reason. BISAC? LCCN? UCC13? I know, I can find out what those are with a search engine, but I shouldn't have to.

    Prepare for i18n. I guess LCCN is a library of congress code number? Those types of libraries exist in other countries, too. Each book can have a gazillion codes. Make this another tuple in the database: (book_id, code_id, code_value) instead of (book_id, lcc_id, isbn10, isbn13, 10 other codes in the same record).

    Also i18n: store language codes with all textual columns. A description is most likely going to be Hungarian for a book published in Hungary in Hungarian.

    This complicates the schema a lot. Having very few tables is tempting, but it usually doesn't work well with the real world.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Teancum ( 67324 )
      Here is some additional food for thought about this idea.... coming from somebody who has only given this concept just a few minutes of thought, but having dealt with this issue extensively in the past (of trying to catalog e-books):

      The kinds of skills necessary for doing actual cataloging work.... classifying and organizing knowledge... are so rare as to be a very precious jewel of a person if you ever do find somebody like that. And developing these skills is not something very easy to accomplish either.
      • >>The kinds of skills necessary for doing actual cataloging work.... classifying and organizing knowledge... are so rare as to be a very precious jewel of a person if you ever do find somebody like that.

        Well said. I am working on an MLIS degree (yes, Virginia, there are still new librarians being trained) and just having learned the baby steps of cataloguing, I can tell you that it is not simple, for many of the reasons cited above. Most cataloguing is "copy cataloguing" - replicating the data provi

        • I happen to be working on a masters in the library school in parallel to the MLS cohort (right across the river in MD), and I've taken a number of their classes. Gloriously outdated class titles like "ISAR: Information Storage and Retrieval" abound. I've learned of the finer nuances of the differences systems and I agree it's not simple, also for the reasons in the GP post. I also agree that every system has its strengths, but what you librarians fail to see is that they all share a common, easily rectified
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A lot of the confusion here arises from the fact that this claims to be a "library". A library is where you can borrow books. An online library would be something where you can download books. On their site you can't even read books. It's a (bookstore/library/etext) catalog at most.

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