The Open Library is built as a structured wiki, and is intended, as the site says, to be “a product of the people: letting them create and curate its catalog, contribute to its content, participate in its governance, and have full, free access to its data.”
The Open Library’s About Us page closes with a precis of the IA’s motivations.
Earlier this year, a small group of people gathered at Internet Archive’s San Francisco office to discuss whether this was possible. Could we build something so grand? We concluded that we could. We located a copy of the Library of Congress card catalog, phoned publishers and asked them for their data, created a brand new database infrastructure for handling millions of dynamic records, wrote a new type of wiki that lets users enter structured data, set up a search engine to look through it all, and made the resulting site look good.
We hooked it up to the Internet Archive’s book scanning project, so that you can read the full text of all the out-of-copyright books they’ve made available. And we hope to add a print-on-demand feature, so that you can get nice paper copies of these scanned books, as well as a scan-on-demand feature, so you can fund the scanning of that out-of-copyright book you’ve always loved.
But we can only do so much on our own. Hopefully we’ve done enough to make it clear that this project is for real — not simply another pie-in-the-sky idea — but we need your help to make it a reality. So we’re opening up the demo we’ve built so far, opening up the source code, opening up the mailing lists, and hoping you’ll join us in building Open Library. It sure is going to be a fun ride.
The ThingDB database framework is quite interesting, with the data model built on “things.” (Really!)