Internet Archive offers 1.4 million copyrighted books for free online [arstechnica.com]
One of the casualties of coronavirus-related social distancing measures has been public libraries, which are shut down in many communities around the world. This week, the Internet Archive, an online library best known for running the Internet's Wayback Machine [archive.org], announced a new initiative to expand access to digital books during the pandemic.
For almost a decade, an Internet Archive program called the Open Library has offered people the ability [publishersweekly.com] to "check out" digital scans of physical books held in storage by the Internet Archive. Readers can view a scanned book in a browser or download it to an e-reader. Users can only check out a limited number of books at once and are required to "return" them after a limited period of time.
Until this week, the Open Library only allowed people to "check out" as many copies as the library owned. If you wanted to read a book but all copies were already checked out by other patrons, you had to join a waiting list for that book—just like you would at a physical library.
Of course, such restrictions are artificial when you're distributing digital files. Earlier this week, with libraries closing around the world, the Internet Archive announced a major change: it is temporarily getting rid of these waiting lists.
"The Internet Archive will suspend waitlists for the 1.4 million (and growing) books in our lending library by creating a National Emergency Library to serve the nation's displaced learners," the Internet Archive wrote in a Tuesday post [archive.org]. "This suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later."