Tim Spaulding, founder of LibraryThing, hails the launch of Open Library as “an open source alternative to OCLC.” The code for the application is open, and the book metadata itself is open and editable by users. The Open Library home page invites us to “Imagine a library that collected all the world’s information about all the world’s books and made it available for everyone to view and update.” The project features searchable full text and an online book viewer. The term “books” is apparently meant to include scientific articles as well. A catalog of such Borgesian proportions has obvious potential for scholarly application, but there seems to be a lot of overlap with services like Project Gutenberg, Google Scholar and Books, Open WorldCat, ConnoteaCiteULike, Goodreads, and even Spaulding’s own LibraryThing. The difference is, ostensibly, that Open Library means to incorporate all of the functionality currently distributed across these applications. And more. Whether or not the project is truly feasible remains to be seen, but even a result that falls well short of the ideal could be of immense scholarly value.

Tim Spaulding