Free covers

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Free Covers?

LibraryThing offers almost 2 million member-uploaded covers for libraries and others to use under minimal restrictions, and at no cost.

Where do they come from?

This service only distributes member-uploaded covers. Many of the covers on LibraryThing.com are taken from Amazon and other booksellers. They are not available through this service.

How it works:

The basics.

The process, patterned after the Amazon.com cover service, is simplicity itself:

1. Take an ISBN, like 0545010225 2. Put your Developer Key and the ISBN into a URL, like so (replacing KEY in the URL with whatever your key value is):


3. Put that in an image tag, like so:

     <img src="http://covers.librarything.com/devkey/KEY/medium/isbn/0545010225">

4. And your website, library catalog or bookstore has a cover.

Easy details.

Each cover comes in three sizes. Just replace "medium" with "small" or "large."

As with Amazon, if we don't have a cover for the book, we return a transparent 1x1 pixel GIF image. So you can put the cover-image on OPAC pages without knowing if we have the image. If we have it, it shows; if we don't, it doesn't.

The Catch?

To get covers, you'll need a LibraryThing Developer Key — any member can get one. This puts a top limit on the number of covers you can retrieve per day — currently 5,000 covers. In fact, you get much more than this as we only count when the cover has to be made. That is, if you or anyone else hits the same cover more than one within a few days, it counts as one hit. If that's not enough, let us know and we'll raise your number. We encourage you to cache the files locally.

You also agree to some very limited terms:

  • You do not make LibraryThing cover images available to others in bulk. But you may cache bulk quantities of covers.
  • Use does not involve or promote a LibraryThing competitor.
  • If covers are fetched through an automatic process (eg., not by people hitting a web page), you may not fetch more than one cover per second.

You will note that unlike the new API to our Common Knowledge data, you are not required to link back to LibraryThing. But we would certainly appreciate it.


  • Accuracy isn't guaranteed--this is user data--and coverage varies.
  • Some covers are blurrier than we'd like, particularly at the "large" size. This is sometimes about original files and sometimes about our resizing routines. We're working on the latter.

Library catalog-specific installation information

If any libraries want to add information about how they've added Covers to their OPACs, please do so! Wiki away!

You want more?


  1. Art Zemon has released a simple LibraryThing covers caching script in PHP. We welcome local caching.
  2. Blogger Alejandro Garza has instructions for the Millennium Module for Drupal.
  3. The LawLibrary Blog wrote a piece on the legalities of the issue.

Why did we do this?

Read the blog post explaining why we're doing this (and the origin of these instructions) here, and the post with updated information on Covers here.

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