Small local lending library boxes, be it a recycled phone booth or a custom built cubby, are growing increasingly popular. Book enthusiasts have been erecting them around the world, and now thanks to a project called LibraryBox you can do the same with ebooks.
LibraryBox 2.0 is an open source software project which is being developed by Jason Griffey of the University of Tennessee. The software is designed to replace the original firmware on certain Wifi network routers, and serve up files to anyone who logs on to its network. With the addition of USB thumb drive, the LibraryBox has a storage capacity that is only limited by what’s available on the market and what your pocketbook can afford.
The LibraryBox project was initially funded by a Kickstarter project last July, today I can report that the software has been released as a public beta. You can download the software from Github and install it yourself, and you can also go to the LibraryBox website and buy a pre-configured router with all the software installed and ready to go.
Due to its shoestring development budget, LibraryBox is only designed to run on a limited number of routers made by TP-Link. Unfortunately that means you can’t a Mesh Potato, Raspberry Pi, or that spare Linksys router sitting on a closet shelf, but on the upside the cheapest compatible router only costs $30 on Amazon. That’s relatively cheap when compared to what similar projects would have cost years ago.
The LibraryBox isn’t the first to offer a cheap solution to network file storage; it’s based on an idea that I have seen floating around for at least 6 years. Its direct ancestor, the PirateBox, uses much the same software to enable users to both upload and download files (the LibraryBox lacks the upload option).
I can also recall that Books in Browsers 2011 had a temporary server like the PirateBox set up as a demo and a local file server; it was probably running on PirateBox software.
And before that there was the Plug Computer, which first showed up in 2009, but the earliest idea similar to the LibraryBox dates to at least 2007 (if not earlier). That’s when I encountered a small community of modders who helped each other hack a particular family of routers so the routers could functions as file servers. I don’t have a link to share, but I do recall that the routers cost about $130 and that the software was not easy to install and troubleshoot.
The LibraryBox project is not only significantly cheaper, it’s also relatively simple to install.
This blogger is not inclined to do anything involving his ebook library which might resemble work, but if I were going to formally organize my ebook collection and put it on my home network, the LibraryBox would be high on my list of options.