Editor’s Note: While the National Emergency Library’s no-waitlist policy ended on June 16, 2020, we felt it was important to note that many in the book publishing world decried the Internet Archive’s choice to distribute published materials without restriction this spring. The reason there’s a waiting list for e-books at your local library is the same reason you can’t grab a book off a bookstore shelf and run out without paying for it. Whatever your preferred type of reading may be, this is a case of “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” If you love reading books, support the authors who write them. Learn more about this on Book Riot.
If you’re off work or school due to the coronavirus pandemic and are looking for something to help you stay busy while at home, how about finally reading some books you always told yourself you would?
While your local library is most likely closed, you can check out books from the comfort of your couch thanks to the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library, that just made more than one million digitized library books available for free — and with no waitlist!
The organization’s National Emergency Library will suspend waiting lists through June 30, 2020, or the end of the U.S. national emergency, whichever is later.
The Internet Archive announced the initiative over social media:
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Announcing a National Emergency Library 1.4 million free books to meet students’ and readers’ needs while schools and libraries are closed at global scale. Link in Bio! http://blog.archive.org/2020/03/24/announcing-a-national-emergency-library-to-provide-digitized-books-to-students-and-the-public and browse the collection at https://archive.org/nel . Also massive thank you to @yiyinglu for the amazing logo . #endorseus #spreadtheword #bettertogether #covid_19 #wecanbeatthis #stayapart #socialdistancingiskey #nationalemergencylibrary #homeschool #digitization #learn #school #books #homeschooling #worldlibrary #librariesofinstagram #getinvolved #
The National Emergency Library will allow users to borrow books freely for the remainder of the U.S. academic calendar year, ensuring that students will have access to research materials that the Internet Archive has digitized. It also provides a way for everyone else to continue reading and keeping their minds active while staying safe at home.
“The library system, because of our national emergency, is coming to aid those that are forced to learn at home, ” Brewster Kahle, digital librarian of the Internet Archive, said in a blog post. “This was our dream for the original Internet coming to life: the Library at everyone’s fingertips.”
The emergency library includes all the books from Phillips Academy Andover and Marygrove College and many from Trent University’s collections, along with more than a million other books donated from other libraries.
While the National Archive says the free collection is just a fraction of the size of a large metropolitan library system or a great academic library, the books they’ve digitized have been “acquired with a focus on materials published during the 20th century, the vast majority of which do not have a commercially available ebook,” the blog says.
That means, essentially, that while we’re all able to access the latest best sellers and popular titles through services like OverDrive and Hoopla, we don’t usually have access to many books that only exist in paper, which are now sitting inaccessible on library shelves.
While odds are you won’t be looking for many of the titles offered in the new digitized library, like “The Practical Book of Chinaware” from 1925, the Internet Archive already offers free public access to other titles you may be more interested in.
Titles include everything from the “Harry Potter” series to “The Color Purple,” “The Shining” and more. Nicholas Sparks novels, Dean Koontz books, and many classics are available. You can also borrow children’s books, including the “Wimpy Kid” novels and stories from Dr. Seuss. Plus, you’ll have access to free movies and music through the archive.
You will need to create a free account, but can then “borrow” up to 10 books for 14 days. You can check them out a second time if you haven’t finished them yet.
Is there a book on your list that you haven’t found the time to read until now? This might be the moment!