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The British Library teams up with Amazon

1 December 2003

Another Amazon coup has hustled the online retailer into the headlines yet again. Stealing a march on its competitors, such as (see News Review 20 October 2003), Amazon has done a mega deal with the British Library, which will give it the right to use the Library's massive bibliographic catalogue, which contains 2.55 million books. This includes the 1.7 million books published before the 1970 introduction of the International Standard Book Number system (the ISBN identifies any book published since then). At one stroke, it gives Amazon users hugely improved access to the British Library's rich database and catapaults the online retailer into the online market for antiquarian books.

Robin Terrell, MD of, said: 'Buyers will be able to come online and order them using us as a third party to make sure of things like security of payment.' An important element of the deal is that the British Library's catalogue not only provides access to a massive list of titles, but also authenticates those books that do not have an ISBN number because they were published prior to 1970. Natalie Ceeney of the British Library says: 'The Library's alliance with Amazon is a wonderful way to make our catalogue data relevant and available to a wider audience.'

The British Library's collection includes 150 million items in most known languages and a massive three million new ones are added each year. British publishers are obliged to send in a legal deposit copy of each book they publish. The items, mostly books, are stored on 599 km of shelves at five sites in London and Yorkshire, including the huge new British Library building in central London.