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

Last Update: June 4, 2018.

Bookshelf provides free access to the full text of books and documents in the biomedical and life sciences as well as health care at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), National Library of Medicine (NLM). The collection is referred to as the NLM Literature Archive. Content in Bookshelf is made available by participating authors, editors, funders, sponsors, and publishers. Through integration with other NCBI databases, such as PubMed, Gene, Genetic Testing Registry, and PubChem, Bookshelf provides reference information for biological data and facilitates its discovery.

This page describes how content is selected for Bookshelf and how to apply.

Selection of Titles for Bookshelf

Participation in Bookshelf is open to any English-language work that is in scope for and meets NLM's standards for the archive. A work must qualify on two levels, both the Scientific quality of the title, and the Technical quality of its digital files.

Scope and Coverage

Proposed full-text book and document titles are reviewed by the National Library of Medicine for inclusion in the NLM collection. To be considered for Bookshelf, a work must fall within the scope of core biomedical subjects as defined in the NLM Collection Development Manual.

Consideration for participation in Bookshelf is given to varied types of peer-reviewed, full-text content. The following format and literature types are within scope for Bookshelf:

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 and reference literature, as far as is possible. Proposed content may be written for scientists, health professionals, educators and students, or consumers.

Supplementary materials and data sets are only accepted in association with the complete full-text.

Proposed content must be accepted for publication by a credible publisher or content provider. For proposed monograph and report series and other regularly updated resources, there must be at least a year’s worth of published content to review. The National Library of Medicine may accept peer-reviewed content from a sponsor with whom the National Library of Medicine has a clearly-defined and reviewed LitArch archiving agreement. Sponsors must have clearly and publicly documented policies to qualify for such an agreement. All new content providers and sponsors are reviewed by the National Library of Medicine to ensure they meet scientific and scholarly communications standards.

Several criteria are evaluated in determining whether a proposed title should be included in Bookshelf and are briefly described below.

Scientific Quality Standards

To apply to Bookshelf, a work must be peer-reviewed and demonstrate features that contribute to the objectivity, credibility, and quality of its contents. NLM’s Library Operations Division will decide whether the scientific and editorial character and quality of a proposed title merit its inclusion in Bookshelf. In making this decision NLM will consider the suitability of the journal for the NLM collection (based on the criteria in the Collection Development Manual of the National Library of Medicine).

Technical Quality Standards

Authors and publishers must provide Bookshelf the full text of content in XML (Extensible Markup Language) format using an acceptable DTD (Document Type Definition) per the Bookshelf File Submission Specifications. 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.

The Application Process

Authors, editors, funders, sponsors 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. Send an email to vog.hin.mln.ibcn@flehskoob and attach the completed application spreadsheet. If you have not archived content in Bookshelf previously, you will also need to complete the publisher information sheet.

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

In addition to the application, Bookshelf requests 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 5AN38
Bethesda, MD 20892-6511


An abstract for the book


Brief biographies or CVs of authors.
Note: In the case of a book in which chapters are contributed by different authors, the biography of the book editors is sufficient

If a proposed title is deemed to be within scope for the NLM Collection, then its scientific merit is the primary consideration in selection for publication and indexing in Bookshelf. Consideration is also given to the expertise of the title’s authors or editorial panel in the subject area. Content is expected to be supported by a range of cited references. Clinical resources must have a review cycle for communicating and maintaining their currency. Content must be well written and edited for correct grammatical and style usage. Each new edition of a book or report requires review unless it belongs to a series.

The title’s organization, layout, and editorial quality are important considerations in assessing content. 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.

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. Once the full text of the book has been made freely available on the Bookshelf website, per the terms of the agreement, Bookshelf does not support removal of the content nor any post-publication embargoes. Bookshelf provides immediate free access to the full text of all content in its archive regardless of participation in the NLM LitArch Open Access Subset.

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)

Bookshelf shares content with Europe PMC. 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.