The Open Library is a free web library slash pirate site run by the Internet Archive. It lends ebooks, and can be used by anyone online.
A recent update added a new option where anyone with a website can embed a widget on their site that will display a book listing from the Open Library. (Amazon and other retailers offer a similar option.)
Openlibrary.org has over 3M books lining its digital shelves, but nothing quite beats being able to embed your favorite book directly on your personal site. Last week, with the help of volunteer Galen Mancino, we launched an embed tool which lets you add any Open Library book to your website or blog. Next time you write a book review, you can place its Open Library book right next to it and, if its available, enable your audience to read it with a single click.
This embed feature is at best problematic; yes, it’s a great feature, but it’s being offered by a site that hosts a lot of pirated books.
The Internet Archive has many positive activities, including rescuing abandoned software and archiving sites so they don’t vanish from the web.
The Open Library, the site where the IA distributes in-copyright and commercially available books without permission, is not one of them.
Late last year The Authors Guild, followed shortly by the SFWA, publicly stated what many had noticed going on for years: the Internet Archive was using the Open Library to lend scanned copies of print books to the public. Many of the books were and are available through retailers and library services like OverDrive, but rather than buy legal ebooks the Open Library shared pirated copies.
You can find copies of Harry Potter on their, as well as books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and many other authors.
The Internet Archive has so far refused to address the complaints or stop the piracy. The closest they have come is to make a “good works” defense and claim that they will take the pirated books down when they receive a DMCA notice.
This is akin to a car thief insisting he’s not a car thief because he will return the car when asked. It is a threadbare defense at best, and it is further weakened by the IA repeatedly ignoring DMCA notices and only responding when threatened with a lawsuit.
And now the Open Library wants to make it easier to encourage people to use their service.
I can’t say I am happy about that, but I do admire their chutzpah.