Open Library is a new project starting out in San Francisco, CA, but global in scope. It aims at creating a single database for all book ever published! This massive project expects to function in wiki format and hopes to gather help from enthusiast all around the globe, much like Wikipedia has done in recent years. They are part of the Open Content Alliance.

The projects wishes to be complete open and free, allowing contributors to create and alter book records as the database grows. The final project will provide a form of authority page for each book, and will allow user to link back to this database as a reference, instead of having to link back to a corporate site.

The project is also working on getting libraries around the world to share their catalogs with them, although some, like the British Library are a little skeptical of the project, and therefore hesitant to release their catalog. The British Library in particular is nervous that the project might eventually become commercial; Right now the project receives most of their funding from the Internet Archive, but in the future they will be more reliant on donations, and a percentage of sales they help direct to book sellers. Google is also weary of this project, since basically both aim at gathering the same information, except Google doesn’t want to make it freely available.

As the project develops, the aim is to provide, searchable, digital copies of complete books, and in as much as copyright allows you might be able to download a complete copy or send it to a third party for printing. There is also the ability link to other project that can provide more information, such as Project Gutenberg to digitize cultural works. These digital copies will also help preserve intellectual content, if not physical books for the future.

You can read more about this project in an article from the BBC. Find out more about The Open Library project through the table of content of their website. You can also see a little presentation of what happens behind the scenes when digitizing book, along with a detailed explanation of the project.

You can view some of there demo projects, including The Koran, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Harry Potter.