BookBrainz vs. Open Library

Hello, I am just getting started with BookBrainz and was looking to understand the differences between this project and Open Libary. I understand they are both open online book databases, and I’m trying to figure out which one I should commit to contributing to. Any help would be appreciated, thank you!

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For my information:

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Welcome Zenpai. There are a lot of differences but the most important, at least to me, is the possibility to add all kind of works (e.g. short stories, essays, poems and even journal articles) as a seperate entity.

An anthology looks like this here: Asimovs Science Fiction 48. Folge (Edition) – BookBrainz

and in OpenLibrary like this:

If you want to add the stories, your only possibiliy is to add them as a list in the content field.

But the most annoying thing about OpenLib is: it’s just a big mess with million of imported editions and ten thousands of dupes. Look for example this Donna Leon book:

This edition should have one entry not ten. And as a normal user you’re not allowed to merge them.

So, if you have fun adding data and all kind of works to a “real” database then BookBrains is your page. If you just want to manage your library without investing too much energy I would recommend “LibaryThing”: There you just import your books to a kind of “private” section and then manage your collection easily (but of course: no stories etc. just the complete book).

Hope that helps to decide :wink:


@indy133, can you remove the trailing /edit from this URL?
Otherwise we cannot access this page.

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yes, but now Zenpai has to push edit themselves, to see what I meant :wink:


My personal issues with the Internet Archive / Wayback Machine (which runs OpenLibrary) are twofold and related to content ownership:

  1. They assert that their robots aren’t robots and they refuse to honor the robots.txt standard. They will hoover up your whole site and mirror it unless you (a) go through their process starting at the link below, or (b) have the technical knowledge and means to blackhole them entirely, which I have done.
  1. Much of the bad metadata comes from armies of scanners that digitize entire printed books, which they then “lend out” without owning copyright.

I come from a content creation and journalism background, so these kinds of things make me upset.


Thank you for the guidance. Do most people only add to one or the other then? Right now I am adding to BookBrainz and Open Library at the same time. I understand that from your perspective BookBrainz is the better database.

Also, is info ever imported between the two?

Thanks again.


My bets are hedged - I submit to ListenBrainz and at the same time, shhh. :slight_smile:

I don’t mean to suggest either is better, just that I have philosophical differences. As a practical matter, OpenLibrary has a much wider range of inputs and so will end up with far more data; whether that is better depends on how it’s curated. Honestly which to support is a choice you’ll make, as it’s your time and effort. Contribute to the one you think you’ll get more out of. Self-interest is the best motivator.


Actually I add my books to all of them :wink:

BookBrains because I love that all the short fiction and articles have their own entries (and I should mention it, it has the ‘ahem’ nicest community :upside_down_face:)
LibraryThing for managing (sorting, tagging) my libary and
OpenLibrary because I can add my specific edition + a scan which I link to the respective BookBrainz edition (unfortunately BB does not have this feature yet).

So they all have their benefits…


I am not sure to understand that you cannot have edition cover scans in BB?
Is that so? We cannot have edition scans in BookBrainz?

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It’s the sad truth :cry:


From what I’ve seen, Openlibrary is more focused on reviews, lending and linking to stores, while Bookbrainz is more focused on accurate cataloging (I hope for something like picard for ebooks one day if all goes well and for offline book tracker apps to switch eventually so i wont have to wade through as much sludge). The practical implications of this are that OL accepts poorer quality information contributed by library bots in order to have entries for anything that somebody could review, borrow or buy, and ends up with many duplicates (authors, works and editions), in fact the thing that switched me over to editing for BB was the fact that duplicate editions can’t be merged in OL. Of course this means it’s more work contributing to BB than just emailing support to merge authors and works.