Magazine article American Libraries

Backed by Internet Archive, Entrepreneur Takes on OCLC

Magazine article American Libraries

Backed by Internet Archive, Entrepreneur Takes on OCLC

Article excerpt

In partnership with the Internet Archive and the Open Content Alliance, 21-year-old entrepreneur Aaron Swartz is discreetly challenging OCLC's subscription-based World Cat with a free online book catalog called Open Library, designed to be maintained by the public.

Why is he doing it? "Wandering through the stacks of my local library, I noticed I kept coming across all sorts of fantastic books I'd never heard of," Swartz told American Libraries, "and when I got back to my computer, I found out why: There was nothing about them on the internet. They were out-of-print, so publishers weren't promoting them, Amazon wasn't selling them, and libraries had their catalogs hidden behind Google-unfriendly OPACs. So I thought there ought to be a website with a page for every book, collecting everything we can find out about it from libraries, publishers, reviewers, and, of course, book lovers."

Swartz is partnering with the Internet Archive and the Open Content Alliance on the project. The former "had been thinking of something similar," he says. "They've scanned hundreds of thousands of books for libraries, but unfortunately they're very hard for people to find at the moment. They wanted to build a site that collected information and let people search through books, to help put the books they scanned in front of people. So they've provided much of our funding and all of our servers and helped make this idea a reality."

Asked how his project relates to Brewster Kahle's Open Libraries digitization project, Swartz said, "Our goal is to get metadata about every book to explain why a book is interesting and then provide as many ways of getting it as possible: buying it from a bookstore or a used bookseller, borrowing it from a library, or reading a digitized copy. So we're linking to all the books that the Archive has digitized from our site. …

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