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The Open Library

Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed has a short interview with Aaron Swartz, who in only 21, has already helped create RSS, developed Infogami, and is working on a new project called The Open Library.

Open Library is a new online tool for finding information about books – even (perhaps especially) for titles that are out-of-print, scarce, or likely to find one reader per decade, if even that. It is, so to speak, a catalog with benefits. If a text is available in digital format, there is a link. Citations and excerpts from reviews will be available. Likewise, cross-references to other works on related topics. A user of Open Library can see the cover of the book and, in some cases, search the contents.

The whole interview is interesting, and Open Library sounds like a cool project. And here’s a bit about Swartz’s motivation:

Q: What will Open Library offer that you can’t already find online? What was missing from the existing array of online book-data resources – WorldCat, Google Books, Amazon, etc. – that makes it worthwhile to create a new one?

A: As the kind of person who reads Intellectual Affairs (an academophile?), I’m often looking for interesting books on an obscure topic. I can look on Amazon, but its coverage of out-of-print books is pretty poor. (In my experience, most of the really interesting books are out of print.) I can search an academic library or WorldCat, but the quality of data is pretty weak — you can get basic bibliographic info, but no reviews and weak search and a painful interface and most require a subscription.

So I wanted to build a site where one could more easily find those hidden great books, by combining all the data we have on them in one place and letting the people who love them go back and annotate and highlight them.

Did I already mention that he’s only 21?



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