Different library collections have different purposes and focuses. The Online Books Page is primarily a research collection, with an unusually large proportion of older material on a broad array of topics. Most of the over 3 million works we list were published long enough ago to be out of copyright. Information in them will often be out of date, and the writing may reflect the assumptions of the cultures in which they were produced. Some books we list may have statements that are purposely deceptive, malicious, or disparaging or dismissive of various people or groups of people. We list those books because they have value as sources, which can be worth studying for historical, sociological, evidential, or other reasons besides the inherent quality of their content. In research, sources are often more valuable for their documentation of who said what, and in what context, than for the quality of what was said. As with most other libraries, cataloging a book here does not in any way imply endorsement of the contents. (Nor does it imply endorsement of any of the other material on the Web site that hosts the book.)
We do require that what we list be significant, in the sense that it has had a notable audience or impact on the world. (Our bar for significance is pretty low, but it does exclude things that few people have read and that libraries have generally not bothered to collect.) Our criteria for significance can be found on this page. As time permits, we also actively seek out books that give more up to date, comprehensible, inclusive, and helpful information on topics covered in our collection, as well as books by authors from marginalized groups, when they are freely available online. We're especially interested in adding such books on topics where most of the sources we list are not current, accurate, or inclusive. If you know of free online books that would be good to add to our collection for those reasons, we especially encourage you to let us know about them.
Our collection is best used alongside the collections of public and academic libraries near you. Those libraries will usually have many up to date, accurate, and helpful books that we cannot list here due to lack of copyright permissions. Their collections will also generally be more focused on the everyday needs of their community, and will usually be smaller. Our "see what's at your library" links can help you find what is available in local libraries related to the subjects and authors we cover. In turn, our collection will include material that your local libraries don't have, but that you may find useful in your research, or that you find convenient to consult and read in electronic form. You may also find overlooked gems here to enjoy.
Whether you find them here, in your local libraries, or online, you should critically evaluate the sources you consult. Mike Caulfield's SIFT method gives some useful techniques for doing this in the Internet age.
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Edited by John Mark Ockerbloom (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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