By Anoop Verma
During the past few years, the Internet has been ignited with blazing sources of knowledge and information. Scores of online libraries have sprouted to offer free online access to digitised versions of books, maps, films, manuscripts and recordings. Of course, you won’t find new bestsellers listed in these online libraries, most of the free stuff is of fairly ancient origin and free from copyright related issues.
Here is a look at some of the best free online libraries in the world:
Available at http://www.gutenberg.org/, Project Gutenberg is one of the first publishers of free e-books. Currently more than 36,000 books are listed out here. You can find almost every timeless classic that you may have ever wanted to read. The books can either be read online at the website, or it can be downloaded on your computer in HTML, Kindle or text formats. Project Gutenberg is a non-profit organisation and it survives by donations that it receives from its users.
This website located at http://www.archive.org/ is probably the favourite online haunt of bibliophiles. Along with offering free online access to thousands of books, scanned print texts, audio, pictures and videos, the website also offers a chance for us to see how some select websites looked in an earlier era. For instance, you can use the website to find out how Google looked ten years ago. But the main attractiveness of the Internet Archive lies in its huge digital library.
World Digital Library
Launched in April 2009, the World Digital Library (http://www.wdl.org/en/) offers content in many different languages. All kinds of ancient pictures and manuscripts are available at this site. However, the World Digital Library does not allow download of content, you have to do your reading on the website itself.
As the website’s name indicates, this place is a home to many books, whose number tops 29,000. Located at http://www.manybooks.net/, the website makes it easy for readers to find the books by listing the material in four broad categories – Authors, Titles, Genres and Languages. If you click on Authors, you will be led to a new page where many names are listed in alphabetical order. Once you click on the author of your choice you will be taken to a new page, where you will find his or her works listed. There will also be a small picture of the author and links to his page on Wikipedia and WorldCat. You can download books in PDF, Kindle, RTF, Sony Reader, iPod Notes, MS lit, eReader, HTML, etc.
Scribd (http://www.scribd.com) is not an online library, it is basically a document sharing website, which has over the years transmogrified into the world’s largest book club. Anyone can upload books or documents on any topic, and the entire content is discoverable through search engines. Lot of classical books and at times even latest books can be found out here. Text can be read on the website, or it can be downloaded in different formats including PDF. You also find issues of different magazines uploaded on Scribd.
The Free Library
The Free Library (http://www.thefreelibrary.com/) offers free full-text versions of several classical library works from hundreds of celebrated authors, whose biographies, images, and famous quotations can also be found on the site. Along with books, the website also contains a really large collection of periodicals from hundreds of leading publications covering Business and Industry, Communications, Entertainment, Health, Humanities, Law, Government, Politics, Recreation and Leisure, Science and Technology, and Social Sciences. The collection of articles listed out here dates back to 1984. Several newly-published articles get added to the site on a daily basis.
The Open Library
Located at http://openlibrary.org/, this website provides free online access to more than 20 million free e-book titles. The website does not list books on its own; rather it works by collecting links to the places on the Internet where the digitised books have been originally listed. So if you search for a particular title at the Open Library, you might find yourself being led to Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg or elsewhere. The search interface is well designed and books are usually easy to find.