Announcing the Open Library redesign

Announcing the Open Library redesign!
Screenshot on Flickr – CC Attribution

Hooray! And yay! We’re very excited to announce the “soft launch” of our brand new Open Library site! This is version 1 of a reconstructed Open Library, and we’re going to keep it “soft” at a special URL until we’re sure it’s stable enough to make the final transition to We’re hoping that will happen soon.

As we mentioned in two previous blog posts [1][2], the main features of the new design are:

1. Works
The previous version of Open Library was only aware of editions of books, or “manifestations” in FRBR-speak. We’re excited to release Works, which helps catch all editions of the same book and collect them all under this one umbrella. Each work also has its own URI too – we’re hoping these propagate.

Note that our representations of Works is imperfect. We’re the first to acknowledge that there are lots of duplicate edition records in Open Library, and these dupes clog up our ability to derive or create works from editions. That means that we might have 25 Jane Eyres for a while, and that the next logical feature to release is a way for people to help merge things.

2. Subject pages
We wanted to find a way to help people browse the catalog rather than having to know what they’re looking for before they start. So, we’ve gone through a process of breaking down and reconstructing the subject headings on our records, giving each heading a URL, and displaying a whole bunch of data about each heading: works about that subject, publishing history, related subjects, authors who write about it, and publishers who publish in that subject area.

3. Revamped search
We’ve rewritten search from scratch and upgraded to SOLR 1.4. Our ranking is very basic for now, so “relevance” doesn’t mean a lot yet. We can’t wait to improve on it, and in the meantime, you can also sort your searches by the number of editions, when things were published, or filter using facets.

4. UI Improvements
The whole site’s had an overhaul in terms of the user interface. All the major operations (editing, searching, adding covers etc) have been redesigned. Even changing the size and position of the Edit button will hopefully make it clearer that these records are open to correction. We’ll be blogging over the coming weeks with specifics about the user interface enhancements.

5. Links, link, links
Another major component of the redesign is to begin the process of connecting our records to other references out there on the interwebs. If you get to an Edit Edition page, you’ll notice that you can add different identifiers from a variety of systems to the Edition record, and even add a new type of identifier to the system. The more IDs we can collect, the more connections there’ll be into and out of Open Library.

The redesign is just out of the oven, so it’s important to be clear that there are still things missing, unclear, coming soon, or potentially even broken:

1. The API

A lot of the revisions we’ve made to the API are undocumented. We’re looking forward to changing that, and will update you as we do. We’d also like to expand the range of ways you can write to Open Library via the API.

2. The Data
Now that we’ve improved on the ways to browse the Open Library catalog, we’ve exposed a lot of the corners and content in there that may never have seen the light of day, or are just plain wrong.

It might be odd to say, but we sympathize with Google’s recent position on metadata quality[3]. Trying to merge records from lots of different catalogs means there will be duplicates, and that any errors in those different catalogs are imported as well. That’s not to say we’re not happy with what we’ve got at this first stage. Edward has done a fantastic job to get this far, and we’re looking forward to continual improvement of the dataset.

The fun thing — the best thing? — about Open Library is that you can correct any errors you come across, and those corrections can be propagated.

3. Under construction
This is a “soft launch,” our very first release at a new take on the Open Library system. There will be things that seem a bit weird, particularly if you’ve used the previous version.

We’re fairly sure that all the major operations work though, so if you find something that’s broken, or would like to suggest an improvement or discuss something, we’re all ears!

So, please go and explore the new Open Library. This is just the beginning!


26 thoughts on “Announcing the Open Library redesign

  1. Pingback: Internet Archive: Redesign of Open Library Goes Live « ResourceShelf

  2. paul sutherland

    Looking good – and looking forward to be able to contribute more in a batch way.

    But why just books?

    What about sound recordings – they have been around for a while – and have unique ids and some libraries collect them and even catalogue them…

    And commercially produced movies = videos/dvds…

  3. Avery

    This isn’t quite working yet… SQL failures are frequent and I can’t add a book because I can’t “select the author from the dropdown”.

  4. George Oates

    Hi Avery – Yes, sorry about that. It should be resolved now.

    Breakage like this is one of the main reasons why we’re doing a “soft launch”. We need to assess and repair issues around load etc before we shift the new site design to the main Open Library URL. In this particular case, SOLR went down and had to be restarted.

  5. Goldy

    Just wanted to give you a thumb up for the design. It’s really elegant, simple, usable and right to the purpose it serves. Great job!

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  7. Taneya

    Excellent! I love the new design and improved options. I’ve just submitted a recommendation — please allow users to add links to books available in the Internet Archive that have not yet been picked up by the system automatically and at the same time, mark the item as an “ebook” when able to find it at IA, as well as make the green read icon immediately active. I see many potential uses for the improved Open Library and will continue to follow your progression. Thanks!

  8. Taneya

    I would also like the ability to link a book to the WorldCat record if not yet showing up for a particular book and subsequently have the “Borrow” icon immediately active.

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  10. Taneya

    I figured out how to add the link to the Internet Archive edition AND link to the OCLC record. Yes!!

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  12. Nour Ahmed Mohid

    I am very pleased hearing this news, I hope will soon successfully reach its destination. By the way This easy is to link out to other sites, so I want to give a shoulder. This library, I mean this site will without any doubt hit the top.

  13. Torsten

    I love open library and the idea behind it. I added some books to Open Library online a while ago and I like the new design.

    Since I started to write my thesis, I am using the open source reference management software JabRef for managing my books and publications. The great thing about JabRef is, that it has a plug-in system (based on Java Plugin Framework) that allows users to write plugins e.g. for fetching and uploading bibliographic data from and to online libraries.

    Whereas most libraries I know of (except maybebibsonomy) don’t allow users to edit, change and upload bibliographic data, open library does. And imho it would make contributing to Open Library a lot easier for many users if offline bibliographic information that have already been collected in JabRef and that are stored in Bibtex format could just be sent online with a single click.

    What do you think about such a plug in for JabRef? Has it been discussed already? Is this idea totally of the track? Would this be possible at all?

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