Digital Lending Library

Checking out digital versions of books that are automatically returned after two weeks is as easy as logging onto the Internet Archive’s Open Library site, announced digital librarian and Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle. By integrating this new service, more than seventy thousand current books – best sellers and popular titles – are borrowable by patrons of libraries that subscribe to’s Digital Library Reserve. Additionally, many other books that are not commercially available but are still of interest to library patrons, are available to be borrowed from participating libraries using the same digital technology.

According to Kahle, “Digital technologies promise increased access to both old and new books. The Internet Archive, through its site, is thrilled to be adding the capacity to lend newer books over the internet, in addition to continuing to provide the public with all access, free downloadable older materials.” He added, “We expect the number of books in the digital lending library to grow annually.”

Article on this in the Wall Street Journal, and WSJ video.

Currently, is making available:


  • More than one million digital versions of older books are now available for free download in a variety of formats.
  • Over 70,000 current digital books to those with a library card from many of the over 11,000 libraries that subscribe to the OverDrive service.
  • Genealogical books from the Boston Public Library.
  • How-to and technical book collection via the Internet Archive.
  • Marine life reference materials from the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
  • Spanish texts from Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala.

All downloading and borrowing of these books is free to the public.

“This digital library has literally rocked our boat!”
Cathy Norton
Library for the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

“As the first American library to lend books, we believe it is only fitting that we extend and upgrade this basic, yet crucial service in the digital age,” said Tom Blake, Digital Projects Manager Boston Public Library. “We hold the third largest research collection in the country, much of which is available at our buildings only during business hours. Digital lending allows us to circulate these rare, precious, and unique holdings into our local neighborhoods and beyond – anytime, anywhere, free to all.”

“This digital library has literally rocked our boat!” said Cathy Norton, Director of the Library for the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “The discovery process is the backbone of science. For close to 125 years, the MBLWHOI Library has served its scientists while they were in Woods Hole. Today however, our scientists do research around the globe, literally traveling the Seven Seas – Asia, the Arctic, the Antarctic, Europe, South America, and the Amazon – to do their work on site.” Until their collaboration with the Internet Archive, it was nearly impossible to get scientists urgently needed information from the books and journals in the library at Woods Hole. “Our collaboration with libraries and the Internet Archive has helped us to scan, save, preserve and share these unique resources with affiliated scientists — no matter where they are working,” Norton said. “The MBLWHOI’s unique holdings in marine science and oceanography along with research tools in informatics, and books and journals can now also be shared with students and the public on their laptops, phones or any device that will display text and pictures.”

“The digital lending library project gives people a chance to leapfrog traditional barriers to knowledge,” said Giancarlo Ibárgüen S., President of Universidad Francisco Marroquín. “UFM is fully on board,” he added, “We consider this project a powerful tool in promoting societies based on principles of individual liberty and responsibility.”

Jeffrey R. Krull, Director of the Allen County Public Library, which houses the largest genealogical collection of any public library in the country, said, “We see great potential benefit in this lending model for genealogical researchers. Digital lending can make vast amounts of critical data available to genealogists of all ages and circumstances, all over the world. Such access to library collections would be truly transformational.”

How the lending part works:

With either a Windows or a Macintosh computer, a user can visit to search or browse for books with the “only ebook” check box checked to find books they can borrow and read online. If a desired book is a commercially available book, then the user is directed to a page on where they can borrow it from their local library using their library card. If the book can be provided without restriction, then it is offered in a variety of formats for laptops and mobile devices. If the book is not commercially available and no one else has checked out the book, then the user can borrow it for a 2 week period.

Borrowed books can be read in the free Adobe Digital Editions application, which manages the library of books that have been borrowed, or in portable reading devices that support Adobe Content Server 4. All books will be returned after two weeks.

For more information and access to the Internet Archive’s Digital Lending Library visit: or







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