The Archive.org website has over 91,000 fully digitized and fully searchable books from the well-known Allen County Public Library.
That fact alone should put the Archive.org website on every genealogist's top ten list of valuable websites. But very few genealogists are aware of the magnitude of the number of books available. As of the date of this blog post, the Archive.org website has 15,317,776 fully digitized books and every one of those books is in the public domain and can be downloaded to your own personal device. The question always comes up about how many of those books are valuable to genealogists? Since it is difficult to determine if a particular book is or is not useful for any specific research project, the question cannot be reasonably answered. If you search on Archive.org for "genealogy" you get about 132,000 items but that is only books that have been cataloged with the word "genealogy" and does not include a publication that does not use that word. For example, if I search for books using the terms "Tanner family," I get all sorts of items, some related directly to my family line.
It is more useful to search for books of genealogy records. If I search for "Rhode Island history records" I get several useful books containing early Rhode Island history and records. Such as the following.
Searching on the Archive.org website is very similar to searching in any very large library. You must use all of your research skills to guess the way the items were and are cataloged. I recently needed a specific book for research and could not find a copy in any nearby library, but I did find a copy on Archive.org and was able to check out the book through its companion website, OpenLibrary.org. Here is a quote from a recent blog post entitled, "Digital Books on archive.org."
Archive.org is the website that offers free public access to all sorts of materials uploaded by users, collected by the Internet Archive, and digitized by the Internet Archive. Archive.org includes books, music, video, webpages, and software. OpenLibrary.org, a site that is maintained by the Internet Archive, is a catalog of books with the mission to offer “One webpage for every book.” This open source catalog site, started in 2005, is editable by its users and has many code contributors. It links to various resources about that book, for instance, links to amazon.com and betterworldbooks.org to buy the book, to local libraries that own the book, to archive.org for print-disabled access or to borrow a digitized version of the book, and to other sites that have digital versions.Here is how the library works.
The Internet Archive is able to make available for loan older books that are not available in ebook format. In every case, an authorized print copy has been acquired and made unavailable for simultaneous loan.
Many of the books in our collection are books that libraries believe to be of historical importance such that they do not want to throw them away, but are not worth keeping on their physical shelves. The digitized versions are therefore made available to a single user at a time, while the physical book no longer circulates. Since the books which are lent using the controlled digital lending technologies are limited to one reader at a time, it works best for “long tail” books, books that are not available in other ways. Fortunately, many of these books are wonderful and important and we are proud to bring them to a generation of digital learners who may not have physical access to major public libraries.I use the OpenLibrary.org to read books that I cannot find in print or in a library.