New Feature at Century Past Library Adds Many Thousands of Books


The Century Past Library has a great new feature for the New Year. I’ll tell you what it is below but first, the background.

The Internet Archive has a collection called “Books to Borrow” that contains about 1.2 million books still in copyright. These are much more recent publications than the Internet Archive’s even larger copyright-free collection, which are nearly all from before 1924. Books at “Books to Borrow” were published after 1924, with the bulk of them from the 1960s to 2015. Internet Archive makes them available to you free to check out for two weeks at a time. You can read them online or download them to your computer using Adobe Digital Editions.

So why not just use the Internet Archive website? If you know what title, author, or specific subject you’re interested in, going to their site and using their search engine should work fine. But sometimes when people are looking for a book to read, they like to browse through a subject directory looking for topics of interest. That’s where the Century Past Library is handy.

We recently redesigned the directory at Century Past Library to resemble directories at online book stores, using the same subject headings. Like the bookstores, we scrapped the Dewey Decimal classification system that is still used by public libraries. Open a broad subject to find clickable topics, where you’ll find the book links. That’s also where you’ll find that “great new feature” I mentioned above.

The first entries you’ll see now at most subtopics are “collections”. They are groups of modern books on that topic in the huge “Books to Borrow” collection. There can be as few as a dozen, or as many as a couple of thousand books in a given topic collection. All you need do to access them is take a couple of minutes to create an account at Internet Archive. Like Century Past Library, it is entirely free of charge.

These “collections” have expanded the total number of books at Century Past Library from under ten thousand to several times that many, so this is a big deal. If you have visited Century Past Library before and looked at our holdings on your favorite subjects, check them again to see if any collections were added. They are nearly always the first entries at a topic.

Your comments and feedback are welcome!