The Online Books Page


What This Is

The Online Books Page is a website that facilitates access to books that are freely readable over the Internet. It also aims to encourage the development of such online books, for the benefit and edification of all.

Major parts of the site include:

Who's Responsible, and Who Supports It

The Online Books Page was founded, and is edited, by John Mark Ockerbloom, He is a digital library planner and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. He is responsible for the content of the site. Alison Miner, Jie Li, and Rachelle Nelson have also prepared catalog records at Penn used on this site.

The site is hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, who provide the server, disk space, and network bandwidth for the site. They also employ the editor, and support him in his various digital library activities (of which this is but one).

The online books listed on this page have been authored, placed online, and hosted, by a wide variety of individuals and groups throughout the world (and throughout history!).

Where It Started

The Online Books Page originally was founded in 1993 by the current editor, while he was a student at Carnegie Mellon University. He maintained it there until summer 1999, with Web space and computing resources provided by the School of Computer Science. In 1999, it moved to its present location at Penn.

What Gets Listed

The index of individual titles includes books and definitive collections that meet these criteria, and major serial archives that meet these criteria. The index has two parts: a "curated collection" of books that we've personally reviewed and cataloged. and "extended shelves" of books where cataloging data has been automatically imported and adapted from outside organizations. Books in the curated collection are given preference in many search and browse results, and they also have information pages on this site with stable URLs.

In practice, most of what gets included in our curated collection comes directly or indirectly from reader suggestions, either from the extended shelves, or from elsewhere online.

Who Else Works With Us

The Online Books Page is developed in collaboration with many people and projects. Here are some that haven't yet been mentioned.

The books on the extended shelves come primarily from HathiTrust, Project Gutenberg, and the University of Floria Baldwin Digital Collection of Historic Children's Literature who supply the cataloging information we use in those listings.

The editor has also worked with The Universal Library Project at Carnegie Mellon. They supplied many of the copyright renewal scans that can be used to check the public domain status of a work.

The database has also been developed in collaboration with A Celebration of Women Writers, a sister site to this one that is edited by Mary Mark Ockerbloom.

We also have received updates and corrections from countless readers over the Internet, and appreciate them very much!

The books themselves are mostly prepared by a variety of projects and individuals. Some of the major suppliers of online books are listed on the archives page. Here's how people can prepare books to go online.

If you'd like to get involved, there are lots of ways to do so, and volunteers and associates are always welcome. You may be interested in

How It's Funded

This site is not funded by subscription fees, or by advertising. All of the information on this site is provided free of charge to all. We do not solicit or run any paid advertising on this site.

At this time, there is no budget for The Online Books Page as such. The time to maintain the site is donated by the editor (with the blessing of his employer), and the overhead for keeping the server going is paid for by the Penn Libraries. We do not solicit donations for this site at this time. If you would like to support the programs of the Penn Libraries, our hosts, you can find donation information at the Penn Libraries' giving site. Those who would like to fund the production of online books may want to look at this page.

Privacy Considerations

We log accesses to this site with the standard data provided in World Wide Web requests (which includes, among other things, URLs accessed, time of access, the IP address of the site making the request, the browsing program and machine type (if your browser gives out this information), and the previous URL visited (if your browser gives out this information.) The identity of the user is not recorded. Also, note that because the books we list are mostly on other web sites, and we don't log access to links that leave the site, we do not log what books you actually read online, unless they're stored here at Penn.

We may tabulate aggregate user statistics from our logs to better understand usage of our site, and report on its usage to third parties (but only in ways that do not allow specific users to be identified). We may also, in the future, if a user so requests, use that individual's access data to provide customized views of the site, but we do not do so now.

We do not give out information about specific accesses or users to third parties, unless required by law to do so. (To date, we never have been so required, to the best of the editor's knowledge.) The editor believes that access data collected at this site would be legally protected by the same patron protections as other library access data, but hasn't checked with a lawyer, or with the Libraries, about this. In any case, he intends to raise any appropriate legal challenges to any attempt to subpoena individual access information. (Readers should be aware that the "USA Patriot Act" may limit our ability to resist such requests, or inform people that such requests have been made. For more about the Patriot Act and libraries, see the American Library Association's information on this subject.)

Cookies are not required to access this site. The editor makes his best effort to tell people when cookies are required to access books hosted elsewhere that are listed by this site (so that users can keep cookies turned off if they wish).

The sites that hold the books we link to generally have different privacy policies not under our control.

Copyrights and Permissions

The Online Books Page, its sub-pages, and its compilation of listings are copyright by John Mark Ockerbloom. Details of our copyrights and licenses are given on this page.

Links to any point in these pages are welcome, and ordinary links do not require permission. However, if you want to redistribute or 'mirror' substantial portions of these listings or pages, or create derivative works or displays based on them (beyond what is clearly allowed by fair use or the inherent public domain status of facts by themselves), you must abide by licenses associated with them, or where no license is given, obtain prior written permission. Write to the editor at the address below to pursue permissions.

The editor of this page intends to respect any copyrights of the authors of the books listed by the site. We will not knowingly list a book that is neither online with the copyright holder's permission, nor in the public domain (or otherwise legally available) in the country where the online book is stored. We also attempt to warn people about books that are legal to access in a server's hosting country, but may be illegal to access from the US (where this site is located).

Getting our data

Information on new listings can be automatically retrieved via an RSS feed, updated once a day on most business days. (If you want to see this information as an ordinary web page, see our new books listings page.)

We are also currently making Dublin Core versions of metadata for all our curated listings available via the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting. Harvesters can use the base URI to harvest them. (Note that this is not an address designed for web browsers to visit; the content will only make sense to a harvesting client.) This service may be subject to access limitations or discontinuation if it loads the server too much. Our curated collection metadata has a CC0 dedication associated with it. Data for the extended-shelves listings can be obtained directly from their providers (and may be subject to their license or restrictions). For example, HathiTrust's OAI-PMH feed, used to create records for their titles in our extended shelves, is described here, and Project Gutenberg's metadata, also used in our extended shelves, can be downloaded from their site.

We also have raw data for our curated collection listings, as well as serial copyright information files, at our Github instance. We don't currently provide support for it, but you're welcome to use it if you find it handy.

For Further Information

Further information about the page can be found in the FAQ. If your question about the page isn't answered there, feel free to write to the editor at the address below.

Home -- About Us -- FAQ -- Get Involved! -- In Progress / Requested -- More Book Links

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Edited by John Mark Ockerbloom (
OBP copyrights and licenses