Within the framework of Austrian Books Online (ABO), the Austrian National Library is digitising its historical book holdings in a public-private partnership with Google.
Only copyright-free works published after 1501 are being digitised. More than 600,000 volumes with a total of more than 200 million pages are already accessible online free of charge, and can be searched in full text and downloaded as PDF for non-commercial use.
Information on Austrian Books Online, on the digitisation, on the partnership with Google and on using the material can be found here. For questions about Austrian Books Online, please contact us at abo[at]onb.ac.at.
From book to digital copy
"Austrian Books Online" is a central component of the digitisation strategy of the Austrian National Library. The various holdings of historical printed materials are thus made available to users worldwide free of charge. The use of the digital copies also preserves the valuable original objects. In this way, the project makes an important contribution to the democratisation of knowledge as well as to the preservation of the cultural heritage stored in the library. All digitised volumes can be read online and searched in full text (see Access). Of course, the original volumes are still available for use in our reading rooms.
The only volumes excluded from "Austrian Books Online" are those that cannot be digitised for conservation reasons or because of their format. The digitisation of copyright-protected works is explicitly excluded by contract.
The Austrian National Library partnership with Google
The historical book collection of the Austrian National Library is one of the most important and largest in the world. A comprehensive digitisation would not be possible solely using its own resources. The partnership with Google enables the efficient digitisation of large quantities in high quality. Google’s Google Books programme has been digitising the collections of large and important libraries worldwide, including the collections of European libraries such as the Bavarian State Library and the British Library, since 2004. Google thus already has almost two decades of experience in the responsible digitisation of historical books.
Within the framework of the partnership, the Austrian National Library is responsible for the selection, preparation and conservation of the books as well as for making the digitised material accessible via the digital library. In return, the library receives digital copies and full texts from Google, which automatically creates the texts using OCR algorithms (Optical Character Recognition). The quality of the full texts can vary depending on the year of publication, the language, the quality of the original and the typefaces used for printing. Google is working on the continuous improvement of the quality of the digitised material and the OCR.
The Austrian National Library creates bibliographic descriptions (so-called metadata) for the titles in the catalogue system. These are supplied to Google Books, but the Library has no influence on the presentation in Google Books (see Access below). The Austrian National Library carries out quality controls on an ongoing basis. If you want to report quality deficiencies in individual digitised material, please use the feedback option in the book viewer (see Access).
How to find and use digital objects from "Austrian Books Online"
You can access the digital objects from "Austrian Books Online" either via the Austrian National Library central catalogue or via the digital reading room "ÖNB Digital".
In the Quicksearch library catalogue you can search through the "Historical Full Texts" . For each hit, you can see a preview of the digitised book. To see it in the book viewer, simply click on the link "Digital object (ÖNB)" on the hit you want.
In the viewer, you can browse through the documents using your web browser or a mobile device, zoom in and out and read the full text via the "View" menu. Additional bibliographic information is available via the link to the catalogue.
In ÖNB Digital you can also discover collections on topics with documents from the "Austrian Books Online" holdings.
The objects digitised as part of "Austrian Books Online" are also available in the Google Books online collection. The volumes of the Austrian National Library are identified as such there in the menu item "About this book".
What you need to know about further use
All works digitised in "Austrian Books Online" are copyright-free. However, the digitised material may only be used for non-commercial purposes. For this reason, the indication No Copyright – Non-Commercial Use Only must generally be observed when using the holdings. If you need a larger number of digitised copies from "Austrian Books Online" for non-commercial use (e.g. research project, teaching or non-commercial publications), please contact us at abo[at]onb.ac.at. When using digitised material, the Austrian National Library must always be identified in the credits.
What can you do with the digital objects and data from "Austrian Books Online?
The Austrian National Library makes digital objects from "Austrian Books Online" available to all users free of charge for non-commercial use via the catalogue, via ÖNB Digital and in the Austrian Books Online Viewer. This facilitates/enables a variety of applications. The service is of particular benefit for research. The Austrian National Library also contributes digitised material and metadata from "Austrian Books Online" to the common European cultural platform Europeana. The images and full texts are also available as data, which can be used as the basis for research questions in the field of digital humanities and social sciences. Large amounts of data can be analysed using data science methods or used as training data for machine learning. The Austrian National Library is continuously involved in scientific projects in these fields of application.
Further information on this project can be found in these two publications, among others:
Max Kaiser, Stefan Majewski: Austrian Books Online. Die Public Private Partnership der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek mit Google. In: Bibliothek – Forschung und Praxis 37.2 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1515/bfp-2013-0020
Christiane Fritze, Martin Krickl: Austrian Books Online – Acht Jahre Digitalisierung des historischen Buchbestandes der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek mit Google. In: Bibliothek – Forschung und Praxis 44.1 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1515/bfp-2020-0008