The Online Books Page


We're happy to get suggestions for listing books that are online, or for books that could go online, via our suggestion form. When you're sending us a suggestion, feel free to tell us as much or as little as you know about the book you have in mind. If we have a title and an author and/or a URL, that's often enough for us to figure out the rest, and we'd rather get a suggestion with incomplete data than not get the suggestion at all. But if you'd like to know how to give us the most useful information on books, read on.

Cataloger contributors: One of the things I hope to do with the form is to let suitably knowledgeable and motivated individuals create full cataloging entries that I can instantly drop into the database (and thus enable many more books to be added more quickly than I could add them on my own.) If you'd like to be part of this "distributed cataloger" effort, or you'd just like to learn how to get submissions in a form that more closely matches what I do in the database, read the "tips for cataloger contributors". And write to the address on the bottom if you have any questions.

General notes on the form

When you're filling in the blanks, don't press the enter or return key until you're done. Many web browsers will attempt to submit the form if you do that. You can move from field to field by pressing the tab key, or clicking on the field you want to fill in next.


Fill in the title of the book, complete with initial articles. (That is, if the title is "The Persians", enter that, not "Persians" or "Persians, The". Our software will automatically alphabetize the title correctly in title browse views, in this case under P.)

Some books may have multiple titles. If you have a title page for the book, you should use the title that appears on the title page. If you want to tell us other titles (like the title on the cover, the title of the series in which this appears, or the "uniform" title-- a common title by which the work is usually known, which may be different from the title on a particular edition) you can give them to us in the comments box near the bottom of the form.

Author (or other creator)

Enter the name of the person or organization that is responsible for creating the book, if anyone. (If the book's author is unknown, or there is no relevant author, you don't need to enter anything.)

The form starts out with one field. If there are multiple authors or other creators, click on "I need more authors" above to get more fields, and put one creator in each field. (You'll need Javascript turned on for this to work.) If that doesn't work, or you run out of fields, you can mention more names in the comments box near the bottom of the form. (The form will expand to as many as 16 creators; beyond that, it's probably not worth listing individual names.)

Next to each field is a short menu giving a choice of roles for the name you're entering. Here's how to decide which role to assign:

Tip for cataloger contributors: We'll take names in any form, but we like to use the same form of names that we already use in our author browsing (see examples). These are usually last-name-first forms of the name, sometimes with dates. For example, "Twain, Mark, 1835-1910" is the form used for the author of Huckleberry Finn. Note that we use the name the creators are generally known by as authors, not their birth or legal names. (Hence, we use "Twain, Mark" instead of "Clemens, Samuel".)

We're working on making our names match the Library of Congress Name Authorities, though we haven't finished normalizing all of our names, and the Library of Congress does not have authorized forms for all the names we use. Also, we sometimes add dates that are not in LC's authorized heading, since death dates in particular are important to many of our users for determining copyright status in their countries. (Any additions to the LC authorized form are given in square brackets, e.g. "Livesay, Florence Randal, 1874-[1953]". Occasionally LC will revise their headings to add death dates; if they do, we'll take out our brackets as soon as we hear.)

Edition Note

This is optional, but it's often useful to identify the edition used for a particular book. A book's contents may vary significantly between different editions, and even if it does not, information about the edition may help place the book in proper context. A medical text published by a well-known institute two years ago should be treated quite differently from one published by an individual author 100 years ago, for instance.

Sometimes a note may simply consist of a year. Other times it may include comments on the online edition along with full publication citation. If an online edition differs in signficant ways from its print counterpart, you should not simply cite the print edition, since this may mislead readers. But you can say that it is based on a particular edition.

Tip for cataloger contributors: The general form I use for a long note is "[explanation]; [place]: [publisher], [year]"; e.g. "second edition; New York: Macmillan, 1904". I'd use "c1904" for a book that was copyrighted in 1904, but possibly printed later, and "ca. 1904" for a book that was published around 1904, but whose exact year was unknown.


If the book is online, enter its URL here. If the book is not yet online, leave this field blank.

If this book requires more than one URL, you can list the others in the comments box near the bottom of the form. But I generally prefer a single URL where possible. (For example, if a book appears in multiple parts or formats, there may be a single cover page that links to the various parts or formats. Or the HTML version, or the first part, may point to the other files.) But if that's not the case, please let me know about other required URLs in the comments.

Tips for cataloger contributors: My database entries include not only the URL, but also the format(s), part information (if applicable) and source of the book I'm pointing to, e.g. "Volume I: HTML at Virginia" or "page images at". If you'd like to include this information, enter the URL, then a space, then the format and source information, all in the same field.

Also, some collections have URLs based on persistent identifiers, as well as other URLs that might retrieve the book. For collections that have persistent identifiers, I prefer listing the URL based on that identifier. (If there's a "how to cite this work" note, the URL given there is usually the most persistent one.)

LC Call Number

If you know the "call number" assigned to the book in the Library of Congress system, enter it in this field. This is used to classify the book by its discipline, and enables a simple means of browsing by subject.

If you're familiar with Dewey Decimal call numbers, LC call numbers are based on the same general idea, but are more commonly used in large American research collections. In the LC system, unlike the Dewey decimal system, the "call number" actually starts with one or more letters, followed by other numbers and letters, e.g. "UB210 .H4 1985", this referring to a book published in 1985 on an area of military science (the "U" section.)

A good way of finding LC call numbers is looking them up in large catalogs that use LC call numbers. Two such catalogs that are free for all to use are the Library of Congress catalog and the University of California's Melvyl.

Tip for cataloger contributors: I'd like to include the call number of the book itself, if possible, and not the series or microform it might be on. If you can't find an LC call number for the book itself, it's better to leave the field blank. (Putting in the call number of its microform, for instance, may file the work in a place not appropriate for the work on its own.) Many libraries also have call numbers that are not LC call numbers; don't include those either. It's okay to use an incomplete call number, though (like "F1024"), if that's all you can find.

There are certain inconsistently-used or obsolete LC categories that I like to avoid. I don't use PZ, for instance, which for a long time was a dumping ground for "fiction" of all sorts that wasn't considered "literature". Instead, I use the appropriate literature call number category (e.g. "PR"), or leave off the call number if no such call number can be found. Books formerly cataloged under JX are now cataloged in other categories; books on Buddhism used to be cataloged with other religions under BL, but are now cataloged under BQ. I'd prefer the call numbers used in current cataloging where available.

LC Subject

You can also assign multiple detailed subject headings to books, which may make it easier to find in browsing. Most US libraries use Library of Congress Subject headings, which helps ensure more uniform subject headings (so you don't get one library using "Muslims" and another "Moslems" or "Mohammedans"), and also defines links between related subject terms. You can look up subject headings in various library catalogs, including Library of Congress, Melvyl, and Open WorldCat. Different catalogs may use different headings; decide for yourself which ones make the most sense for the item. (It's best to use the most focused subject headings that apply, rather than broad headings that don't really capture what's distinctive about the book. People can go between broader and narrower topics by browsing.)

The form starts out with one subject field. But don't be shy to click on "I need more subjects" to get more fields. (You'll need Javascript turned on for this to work.) If that doesn't work, or you run out of fields (what? 16 isn't enough for you?), you can mention more subjects in the comments box near the bottom of the form.

Tips for cataloger contributors: You may want to check multiple catalog entries for the best subjects, since some books were cataloged pretty hurriedly, or using obsolete terms. If you're browsing LC, select "full record" to see the subjects (or "MARC tags" if you dare see the raw data). LC Records that are marked as "premarc" or that have "from old catalog" subjects are likely not to be fully up to modern cataloging standards. To see approved LC subjects, check out the Library of Congress Subject Authorities.

Note also that some books are cataloged using different subject schemes. Some medical books are cataloged using MeSH (medical subject headings) and some children's books are cataloged using "LC Subject Headings for Children". For now, though, I'd just like to use the regular LC subject headings. If you know MARC, you can use the MARC indicator fields on the subjects to figure out which scheme they're using. If not, don't worry too much about it-- I can often figure it out from my end.

Contact information

Entering your email address is the only way you'll get a reply, since that's the only way I know where a contribution came from. Fortunately, you don't have to keep entering it over and over, if your browser accepts and saves cookies, and you check the box that says to save your contact info.

The second checkbox may be useful if you're suggesting a book that isn't already online, and you'd like me (or whoever else finds it or puts it up) to email you when the book goes online. (I'll reply to people who leave me contact info when I process the request, but typically I won't if I can't find the book until some time afterwards.)

Of course, you can leave off all contact info if you'd rather stay private, or don't need a reply. I won't be contacting you about the fate of your request in that case, but you can always watch the new listings and see if your suggestion shows up.

Tips for cataloger contributors: You may want to put in your contact information even if you don't need a reply, simply so I know who did the cataloging. (If I know you're someone who's built up a track record of reliable, informative entries, I'm more likely to get your contributions in quickly, with minimal review.) If you want to send along who you are but don't need a reply, add "no reply needed" to your name.

Comments box

The box headed by "Anything else we should know about this suggestion?" is the place to put anything else that might be relevant. This might include information that didn't fit in the fields above. It's useful to add some details, for instance, if the copyright status of the book is not obvious. If the book is a post-1922 publication, I'm likely to err on the side of caution and not list the book unless I can find some clear evidence that it's public domain or online with permission. (See this page if you need help figuring out what can and can't go online.)

You can go into some detail here, but don't get too wordy; submissions get cut off after a few hundred words or so, to prevent spammers from filling up the site (or suggesters from trying to submit the content of their manuscripts via this form). If you need to tell me more, tell me where I can find more details, or how I can contact you.

Any questions?

You can let me know if you have any questions at the address below. But I'd suggest just trying the form out and asking any questions in the comments. I hope we'll reach understanding quickly.

Thanks for helping build up the online book community!

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