NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

About Bookshelf [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Center for Biotechnology Information (US); 2010-.

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About Bookshelf [Internet].

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Information for Authors and Publishers

Bookshelf provides free access to the full text of books and documents in life sciences and health care at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), National Library of Medicine. The collection is referred to as the NLM Literature Archive. Content in Bookshelf is made available by participating authors, editors, and publishers. Through integration with other NCBI databases such as PubMed and Gene, books at NCBI provide reference information for biological data and facilitate its discovery. Here is some information about the process for participating in the Bookshelf project.

Selection of Titles for Bookshelf

Consideration for participation in Bookshelf is given to varied types of content, including specialist research, resources for university-level teaching, works on methods and procedures, and clinical reports and guidelines. Works consisting entirely of original research articles, theses, and dissertations, are not acceptable. It is important that the Bookshelf collection reflects the kinds of content available in the wider book literature, as far as is possible. Proposed content may be written for scientists, health professionals, educators and students, or consumers. Several criteria are evaluated in determining whether a proposed title should be included in Bookshelf and are briefly described below.

Scope and Coverage

Proposed book titles are initially reviewed by the National Library of Medicine for inclusion in the NLM collection. All books must fall within the scope of core biomedical topics as defined in the NLM Collection Development Manual.

Quality Assessment

Scientific Quality Standards

The book should demonstrate features that contribute to the objectivity, credibility, and quality of its contents. If a proposed book title is deemed to be within scope for the NLM Collection, then the book’s scientific merit is the primary consideration in selection for publication and indexing in Bookshelf. Consideration is also given to the expertise of the book's authors or editorial panel in the subject area. Book content is expected to be supported by a range of cited references. Books must be well written and edited for correct grammatical and style usage. Each new edition of a book requires review.

Technical Quality Standards

The book’s organization, layout, and editorial quality are important considerations in assessing a book. Book content should be adequately structured, usually in the form of well-ordered chapters, sections, and subsections, clearly demarked figures and figure legends, tables, and boxes.

Authors and publishers must provide Bookshelf the full text of content in XML (Extensible Markup Language) format using an acceptable DTD (Document Type Definition). In certain cases, Bookshelf may also ask for a copy of the applicable DTD, with documentation. The Bookshelf validates its XML files against the Book Interchange Tag Suite (BITS) DTD. The original high-resolution, digital image files must also be provided for all figures, as well as supplementary materials such as video, audio, and data files. Bookshelf will evaluate the digital files to assess the technical quality, including that all required files have been supplied and are correctly named, the XML validates according to the DTD, and the online organization of the content, as generated from the XML and associated files, is an accurate and complete rendering of the content. For books of exceptional scientific value and quality only as determined by the National Library of Medicine, and when XML files are not available, consideration will be given to PDF file format submission, and in the absence of any electronic format, to paper submission.

The Application Process

Authors, editors, or publishers may put forward titles for review. Authors and editors who would like their books to be included on the Bookshelf should first agree on the application with the book publisher or with the copyright holder.

To begin the application process, download and complete the application form. Send an email to vog.hin.mln.ibcn@flehskoob and attach the completed application form.

Mac OS users: Please use Adobe Acrobat to complete the application form, the Preview application on the Mac corrupts PDF forms in a number of ways.

Following a preliminary review, Bookshelf will contact the applicant if a full evaluation of the content is warranted. At this stage, Bookshelf will request the applicant to provide the following:


For books in print, two hard copies of the book or electronic PDF version of the book; for electronic books, a URL where the book may be accessed or electronic files. Hard copies of the book should be mailed to:
Project Leader, Bookshelf
45 Center Drive, MSC 6511
Building 45, Room 5AS55
Bethesda, MD 20892-6511


An abstract for the book


A Curriculum Vitae for the author(s).
Note: In the case of a book in which chapters are contributed by different authors, submitting the CVs of the book editor(s) is sufficient

When the content evaluation is completed, Bookshelf will inform the applicant whether or not the book meets the scientific quality standard. For books which qualify on this basis, the process will continue as follows:

  • Bookshelf will request the applicant to submit XML files (including abstract), images (including cover image), and all supplementary materials such as video, audio, or data files, and a PDF version of the book if available.
  • Bookshelf will evaluate the digital files for completeness, validity to stipulated DTD, quality of data markup, and quality of images.
  • If errors or anomalies are found in the data, Bookshelf will request the applicant to correct the data and resubmit. If the data fails to meet the technical quality standards, the book can be rejected.
  • Bookshelf reevaluates corrected data. If it is found to be satisfactory, the book can be included in Bookshelf.

If a book is rejected, there is no appeal process; applicants may resubmit the book after a two-year period.

Participation Agreement

A participation agreement must be signed by NLM and the copyright holder of the book before Bookshelf begins the production process and releases the book on the Bookshelf website.

NLM LitArch Open Access Subset

The content that you make available in NLM LitArch, may also be made available in the Open Access subset, if you so choose. As part of this subset, NLM may make all of the content freely available to users for automated downloading (XML, images, PDF) via the NLM LitArch FTP site. Content in the subset is either in the public domain or made available under a Creative Commons or similar license that generally allows for less restricted redistribution and reuse than traditional copyrighted work. For more information, see the NLM LitArch Open Access Subset.

Books and PubMed Central International (PMCI)

Plans are underway for Bookshelf to share content with PMCI sites, such as Europe PMC and PMC Canada. For more information, see PMC International.

Bookshelf Citations in PubMed

Bookshelf will submit citation(s) to PubMed for a subset of books and resources included in its collection, as determined by NLM. The display of book citations in PubMed is based on Citing Medicine, 2nd edition. More information on the display and search of book citations and abstracts in PubMed is available in the NLM Technical Bulletin.