Deborah Healey's Attic : Digital Libraries

Digital Libraries

Electronic Content on the Web

Deborah Healey

An amazing amount of material is online. While a lot of it is junk, some of it is very good. The various free digital libraries and electronic text archives are not as easy to use or as extensive as subscription-based ones, but there is still a lot to find online for free. This is a brief survey of some of the major sources of electronic texts and other media for academic work. Some of the material here was adapted from "Digital Libraries: A Guide to Electronic Content on the Web" in the December 2000 Syllabus.

Best choices for academic articles

My latest addition to this list is Openj-Gate (, a collection of free, mostly full-text journal articles from over 3000 journals. The collection is searchable.

The Directory of Open Access Journals offers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals in a range of subjects and languages. There are now thousands of journals in the directory.

Open Access Textbooks

The Student Public Interest Group has a list of open access textbooks on its website, classified by subject area: also have a list of other sources of open-source textbooks at One consideration: most of these textbooks are available for free only if you read them online. If you want to print them out, you'll need to pay a fee. It's probably less than you would pay for a regular book, but it's not free.



Project Gutenberg ( is one of the best-known electronic archives, with thousands of books in the public domain.The texts are in plain text format and HTML (for most texts). Additional formats are being added, including ones for e-book readers. A number of audio books are now available on the site. Most texts are in English, but there are a few in other languages.

Like Project Gutenberg, classic literature and a wide range of online references are available through Project Bartelby ( Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and more.

The Alex Catalog ( is a collection of public domain documents from American and English literature and Western philosophy. It also offers a concordance for each text.

Specialized collections

Philosophers and those interested in the ancient world would appreciate the Perseus Project's collection of resources ( Some very nice pictures as well as texts, including texts in ancient Greek and Latin.

IFLANET, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, has a listing of various electronic text archives at Some are also listed here.

The Virtual Reference Desk ( offers web-based academic information in categories. The resources are evaluated as well as listed, making the Virtual Reference Desk more useful than a typical list of links. The collection is not particularly extensive, but it's free.

The National Library of Canada has an Electronic Collection ( that can be searched by title, subject, or keyword. It's free, but does not appear to be maintained.

The Library of Congress offers American Memory, "multimedia collections of digitized documents, photographs, recorded sound, moving pictures, and text from the Library's Americana collections" ( It's also possible to search the Library of Congress online to see what is there; some material can be requested from the Library through Interlibrary Loan.

Browse the California Digital Library system ( use the Directory of Collections and Services to browse and search through the California Digital Library's extensive collections of digital resources, including electronic journals, databases, reference texts and archival finding aids. Faculty, students, and staff of the University of California system can access the full information of the California Digital Library online, but others are restricted to seeing what's available without reading it online. Use Melvyl ( to search for books and periodicals in particular.

The Digital Collections at the University of Virginia ( - Like the California system, most of what is here is only available for those at the University of Virginia, but there is quite a bit that is open to the general public (in a variety of languages) and that can be searched. The Electronic Text Center tries to make available to the public everything that it can legally provide.

The Oregon State University Library Digital Collection ( includes GovStats (government statistics in selected areas), the Braceros in Oregon Photograph Collection about Oregon's migratory workers, the Linus Pauling Research Notebooks, and a multimedia presentation of Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA.

Public Library of Science is, as it says on the site, "a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource." The collection is constantly growing.

Highwire Press ( from Stanford University is a science archive. While the whole collection can be searched for free, only some of the content is available to read without a subscription. A list of what is publicly available is at

The NASA Astrophysics Data System ( is one of the world's largest free full-text science archives. Its focus is on abstracts of articles in astronomy and astrophysics, instrumentation, physics, and geophysics. Most of the free texts are in astronomy.


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Deborah's Attic by Deborah Healey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at
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Last updated 28 October 2010