History::Project Gutenberg


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Michael Hart (left) and Gregory Newby (right) of Project Gutenberg, 2006

Project Gutenberg was started by Michael Hart in 1971 with the digitization of the United States Declaration of Independence.<ref name="Hobbes_netTL">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Hart, a student at the University of Illinois, obtained access to a Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer in the university's Materials Research Lab. Through friendly operators, he received an account with a virtually unlimited amount of computer time; its value at that time has since been variously estimated at $100,000 or $100,000,000.<ref name="GP_history">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Hart has said he wanted to "give back" this gift by doing something that could be considered to be of great value. His initial goal was to make the 10,000 most consulted books available to the public at little or no charge, and to do so by the end of the 20th century.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref>

This particular computer was one of the 15 nodes on ARPANET, the computer network that would become the Internet. Hart believed that computers would one day be accessible to the general public and decided to make works of literature available in electronic form for free. He used a copy of the United States Declaration of Independence in his backpack, and this became the first Project Gutenberg e-text. He named the project after Johannes Gutenberg, the fifteenth century German printer who propelled the movable type printing press revolution.

By the mid-1990s, Hart was running Project Gutenberg from Illinois Benedictine College. More volunteers had joined the effort. All of the text was entered manually until 1989 when image scanners and optical character recognition software improved and became more widely available, which made book scanning more feasible.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref> Hart later came to an arrangement with Carnegie Mellon University, which agreed to administer Project Gutenberg's finances. As the volume of e-texts increased, volunteers began to take over the project's day-to-day operations that Hart had run.

Starting in 2004, an improved online catalog made Project Gutenberg content easier to browse, access and hyperlink. Project Gutenberg is now hosted by ibiblio at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Italian volunteer Pietro Di Miceli developed and administered the first Project Gutenberg website and started the development of the Project online Catalog. In his ten years in this role (1994–2004), the Project web pages won a number of awards, often being featured in "best of the Web" listings, and contributing to the project's popularity.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

Hart died on 6 September 2011 at his home in Urbana, Illinois at the age of 64.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

Affiliated organizations

In 2000, a non-profit corporation, the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, Inc. was chartered in Mississippi to handle the project's legal needs. Donations to it are tax-deductible. Long-time Project Gutenberg volunteer Gregory Newby became the foundation's first CEO.<ref name="it21"/>

Also in 2000, Charles Franks founded Distributed Proofreaders (DP), which allowed the proofreading of scanned texts to be distributed among many volunteers over the Internet. This effort greatly increased the number and variety of texts being added to Project Gutenberg, as well as making it easier for new volunteers to start contributing. DP became officially affiliated with Project Gutenberg in 2002.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> As of 2007, the 10,000+ DP-contributed books comprised almost a third of the nearly books in Project Gutenberg.

Kindle Store Controversy

There have been many instances of Gutenberg books being sold for profit in the Kindle Store, one being the reselling of the 1906 book Fox Trapping.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> The books may not have been altered save the stripping of the Project Gutenberg ("PG") terms & conditions, which is specified by PG when content is used elsewhere,<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> and possibly slight formatting changes. There is no legal impediment to the reselling of works in the public domain, but there exists a debate as to the appropriateness of simply reusing content that is created by volunteers, without sufficient modification. The debate questions sellers who take the PG editions without reformatting to include a linked table of contents, or without repackaging, re-editing, or reinterpretation of the data. Factors in the debate include whether or not the features of the Amazon platform render it accessible to a larger community of readers on a greater variety of devices, or if the users of the Amazon platform are essentially "locked in" by the Kindle's platform-specific content.

Project Gutenberg sections
Intro   History    CD and DVD project    Scope of collection    Ideals    Copyright    Criticism    Affiliated projects    See also    References    External links   

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