Thursday, July 19, 2007

Debut of the Open Library

You can visit the Open Library, or, at least, the skeleton of what it may become.

In the words of Brewster Kahle, the Co-Founder and Director of the Internet Archive,

So, why an Open Library? Because we can combine the best that the library system and publishing industry offer to build towards universal access to all knowledge.

There is not a lot to see yet at the Open Library--you can search for words in individual books, but you cannot search all of their available books, and their available books appear to be limited at present to just the handful on their opening home page. Their book flipping tool works smoothly, though a certain amount of trial and error is called for. It was only by random chance that I discovered that <CTRL><HOME> and <CTRL><END> could jump me from the first page to the last page of the book. I find it very interesting that clicking on Print Details gives you downloading options (if available) and lets you request a print-on-demand copy of the book that will be printed, bound, and mailed to you. So much for the paperless library.

A more complete write-up on the Open Library and the plans for it is available from the good folks at if:book. It will be interesting to watch their plans develop for a Web 2.0 online catalog that will allow everyone to annotate book records in the online catalog. We librarians tend to be all for open access to information until it comes to letting the public touch our MARC records.


Lorraine Olley said...

But--God help us!--Open Library provides a Wikipedia approach to cataloging,inviting everyone to create or "correct" cataloging records. As someone who doubts that collective action always yields truth, or even useful information, I would much rather have seen the evolution of LibraryThing to incorporate texts, rather than the creation of yet another suspect "information source."

Blake Walter said...

I would prefer to see a compromise, where there is data that cannot be changed alongside comments, raves, and rants from whosoever will. I can see this appealing more to the public library patron than the academic researcher, but who knows -- if they can post their thoughts on our bib records maybe they will stop marking up our books?