Monday, July 16, 2007

Open Library

The word is finally out about Open Library, the Internet Archive's open cataloging project:

http://demo.openlibrary.org/

It too late in the evening to get into what it's about. You can read about it. But I can tell you it's a big deal. Open Library is going to change book data forever. It's not clear to me how all the ideas will shake out—the wiki idea will be a particularly hard sell to many in the library world!—but I know this: the genie is out of the bottle. Book data is opening up.

It's a relief to talk about it. I was one of the people at the first meeting too, and, before that, I had some role in developing one of the central ideas—an open source alternative to OCLC, building from the LC records.* I missed a second meeting, and I ticked off some with my insistence that Open Library be developed openly as well. In retrospect, I was too hard on them.

Well, it's all out now, and it's wide open. The developers are eager to find out what you think. You can download the code. Congratulations to Brewster Kahle, Aaron Schwartz and the rest for bringing Open Library so far so fast.

I can't wait to see where it takes us.


*From my email, it looks like Casey Bisson had this idea around the same time as I did. Either way, I never went beyond talking, and Casey pushed it forward. (See this Talis podcast.) I don't know what his roll in the final product was, but he deserves a big share of the praise.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Ray Gray said...

It's open all right, and it feels like no one is there. I have always seen librarything.com as assembling all the books of everyones personal librarys online (with links to public librarys included).

Me must read FAQ, don't quite get what is so pioneer about this demo project yet....

7/19/2007 10:03 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I had a similar reaction - neat idea, but will it take off? Will it garner half the energy of LibraryThing?

LT proves open is good, that book people will put in the time and effort to share what they're reading. But I'm just not sure if Open Library will get the critical mass of volunteers needed to make it work.

7/20/2007 9:42 AM  
Blogger James said...

let's not damn it with faint praise just yet. The Internet Archive itself was one of those crazy pie-in-the-sky ideas at the time and now they've actually been designated a Library!

This is a great idea for at least 2 reasons: it's non-commercial, and it's open-source. If the only thing OpenLibrary does is make MARC records available in one place for free, then it's succeeded. But pulling all the threads together (metadata, e-books, reviews, find-in-a-library, etc) and making them available via their API for others (including LT) to build off of will no doubt be (google)earth-shattering :-)

[disclosure: I was there at the first meeting too. --James]

8/10/2007 5:51 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Wait, are you saying I was damning them with faint praise? Far from it!

8/10/2007 6:09 PM  

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