B-OK, probably the world’s largest free ebook site with a minimally-invasive registration process

As NSR readers know, one of its overriding purposes is to be a passionate advocate for what could  be called ‘boundary-less reading’. By that I mean, e-reading liberated from the confines of space, time, and—increasingly—economic control by rapacious publishers and colluding library administrators whose model for reading demands that digitized books conform to the limitations of print in terms of availability and accessibility.

This radical departure in how to think about electronic reading  can free reading material from the requirements of location, platform, codes, passwords, and library cards and let people just read. There would no longer be a Library-Patron relationship, or a Vendor-Subscriber one. The high-tech simplicity of it all! This is possible when committed people join together.  Therefore, I dedicate this space (and a new column) to NSR‘s readership, who seek to read boundary-less.


Our tour last week began at the beginning, with Project Gutenberg. This week, I’ll describe what is probably the largest free ebook site: B-OK (http://b-ok.org/). It looks to be a short description. The research I did for this post yielded very little. Searches on Google and ProQuest’s Library Science database revealed essentially nothing. Their website is extremely sparse on background information as well and gives no history. However, they do say that they have 2.8 million ebooks and 52.5 million science articles. The vast majority of files are in PDF format.

Searching can be done by use of a search box that accepts keywords and has an advanced search feature that permits searching by date/date range, language, and file extension. Also, a dropdown menu lets users search by category (i.e., subject). An app and a plugin are provided for reading their titles. B-OK encodes their library in fb2 format and recommends two readers: CoolReader and Alreader2.rar. There is a minimally-invasive registration process. However, it is not the “boundary-less” reading process for which No Shelf Required has been a tireless advocate for the past several years.

There is no mention of DRM per se. I add that proviso because they do have a page that discusses the rights of authors and their designee(s) under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 (https://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf). They invite notices from copyright holders about infringement related to works on the site.


Ari Sigal received his MLS in 1985 and has done reference and administrative work in public, academic and special libraries. Since 2004, he has worked for Catawba Valley Community College (Hickory), NC, first as Library Director (to 2009) and currently as the Reference and Instruction Librarian. He is also Curator of the Gilde-Marx Collection for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, one of the largest of its kind in North Carolina and offers an annual program on topics related to its material. He is the editor of Advancing Library Instruction (IGI-Global, 2013) and also serves on the editorial advisory board for the  Encyclopedia of Information Science and  Technology, also from IGI.

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