Project Gutenberg (1971-2008) by Lebert, Marie
Project Gutenberg in 2003. Since 1997, PGCC had been working on gathering collections of existing eBooks, as a complement to Project Gutenberg which was focusing on the production of eBooks.
In December 2003, Distributed Proofreaders Europe (DP EUrope) were launched by Project Rastko, followed by Project Gutenberg Europe (PG Europe) in January 2004. Project Gutenberg Europe celebrated its first 100 books in June 2005. These books were in several languages, a reflection of European linguistic diversity, with 100 languages planned for the long term.
In January 2005, Project Gutenberg reached the landmark of 15,000 books. eBook number 15000 is The Life of Reason, by George Santayana (published in 1906). In July 2005, Project Gutenberg of Australia (launched in 2001) reached the landmark of 500 books. New teams were getting ready to launch Project Gutenberg Canada, Project Gutenberg Portugal and Project Gutenberg Philippines over the next years.
What about languages? If there where were works in 25 languages only in February 2004, there were works in 42 languages in July 2005, including Iroquoian, Sanskrit and the Mayan languages. On July 27, 2005, out of a total of 16,800 books, the seven "main" languages were: English (with 14,548 books), French (577 books), German (349 books), Finnish (218 books), Dutch (130 books), Spanish (103 books) and Chinese (69 books). There were books in 50 languages in December 2006. On December 16, 2006, out of a total of 19,996 books, the main languages were English (17,377 books), French (966 books), German (412 books), Finnish (344 books), Dutch (244 books), Spanish (140 books), Italian (102 books), Chinese (69 books), Portuguese (68 books) and Tagalog (51 books).
In December 2006, Project Gutenberg reached the landmark of 20,000 books. eBook number 20000 was the audio book of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Vingt mille lieues sous les mers), by Jules Verne (published in 1869). Half of these 20,000 books were produced by Distributed Proofreaders since October 2000, with a monthly average of 346 new digitized books in 2006. If 32 years were necessary to digitize the first 10,000 books, between July 1971 and October 2003, 3 years and 2 months were necessary to digitize the following 10,000 books, between October 2003 and December 2006. Project Gutenberg of Australia was about to reach 1,500 books (this goal was achieved in April 2007) and Project Gutenberg Europe reached 500 books.
The section Project Gutenberg PrePrints was set up in January 2006 to collect items submitted to Project Gutenberg which for some reason were interesting enough to be available online, but not quite ready yet to be added to the main Project Gutenberg collection, the reason being for example missing data, low-quality files, formats which were not handy, etc. This new section had 379 files in December 2006.
= 20,000 to 25,000 Books
Project Gutenberg News began in November 2006 with Mike Cook as its editor and webmaster, as a complement to the weekly and monthly newsletters that had existed since a number of years. The website gives for example the weekly, monthly and yearly production stats since 2001. The weekly production was 24 books in 2001, 47 books in 2002, 79 books in 2003, 78 books in 2004, 58 books in 2005, 80 books in 2006 and 78 books in 2007. The monthly production was 104 books in 2001, 203 books in 2002, 348 books in 2003, 338 books in 2004, 252 books in 2005, 345 books in 2006 and 338 books in 2007. The yearly production was 1,244 books in 2001, 2,432 books in 2002, 4,176 books in 2003, 4,058 books in 2004, 3,019 books in 2005, 4,141 books in 2006 and 4,049 books in 2007.
Project Gutenberg of Canada (PGC) was founded on July 1st, 2007, on Canada Day, by Michael Shepard and David Jones, and Distributed Proofreaders of Canada (DPC) started production in December 2007. There were 100 books in March 2008, with books in English, French and Italian.
The combined Project Gutenberg projects have produced a total of 26,161 titles in 2007.
Project Gutenberg sent out 15 million books via snail mail in 2007, under the form of CDs and DVDs. Dated July 2006, the latest DVD included 17,000 books. Since 2005, CD and DVD files have also been periodically generated as ISO files to be downloaded and used to make a CD or DVD using a CD or DVD writer.
As for volunteers, Distributed Proofreaders (DP), who started production in October 2000, had over 52,000 volunteers in January 2008. DP processed 11,934 books since its beginnings. Distributed Proofreaders of Europe (DP Europe), who started production in December 2003, had over 1,500 volunteers in January 2008. Distributed Proofreaders Canada (DPC), who started production in December 2007, had over 250 volunteers in January 2008.
Project Gutenberg reached the landmark of 25,000 books in April 2008. eBook number 25000 was English Book Collectors, by William Younger Fletcher (published in 1902). On April 21, 2008, out of a total of 25,004 books, the main languages were English (21,475 books), French (1,168 books), German (530 books), Finnish (433 books), Dutch (326 books), Portuguese (217 books), Chinese (196 books), Spanish (180 books), Italian (128 books), Latin (55 books) and Tagalog (54 books). And there were books in Esperanto (45 books), Swedish (40 books), Danish (20 books), Catalan (19 books), Welsh (10 books), Norwegian (10 books), Russian (7 books), Icelandic (7 books), Hungarian (7 books), Middle English (6 books), Greek (6 books) and Bulgarian (6 books).
3. THE METHOD
Whether digitized years ago or now, all the books are digitized in 7-bit plain ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange), called Plain Vanilla ASCII. Used since the beginnings of computing, it is the set of unaccented characters present on a standard English-language keyboard (A-Z, a-z, numbers, punctuation and other basic symbols). When 8-bit ASCII (also called ISO-8859 or ISO-Latin) is used for books with accented characters like French or German, Project Gutenberg also produces a 7-bit ASCII version with the accents stripped. (This doesn't apply for languages that are not "convertible" in ASCII, like Chinese, encoded in Big-5.)
Plain Vanilla ASCII is the best format by far. It is "the lowest common denominator". It can be read, written, copied and printed by any simple text editor or word processor on any electronic device. It is the only format compatible with 99% of hardware and software. It can be used as it is or to create versions in many other formats. It will still be used while other formats will be obsolete (or are already obsolete, like formats of a few short-lived reading devices launched since 1999). It is the assurance collections will never be obsolete, and will survive future technological changes. The goal is to preserve the texts not only over decades but over centuries. There is no other standard as widely used as ASCII right now, even Unicode, a "universal" encoding system created in 1991.
Project Gutenberg also publishes books in well-known formats like HTML, XML or RTF. There are Unicode files too. Any other format provided by volunteers (PDF, LIT, TeX and many others) is usually accepted, as long as they also supply an ASCII version where possible.
But a large scale conversion into other formats is handed over to other organizations. For example Blackmask Online, which uses Project Gutenberg's collections to offer thousands of free books in eight different formats based on the Open eBook (OeB) format. Or Manybooks.net, which converts Project Gutenberg's books into formats readable on PDAs. Or Mobilebooks, with 5,000 books in Java (.jar) format that can be downloaded from the website to be read on a cell phone. Or Wattpad, a free service for reading and sharing stories on a mobile phone. Once downloaded to your phone, the service gives instant access to works from Project Gutenberg.
As a volunteer, the wisest thing to do is to choose a book published before 1923. It is also required that copyright clearance be confirmed prior to working on any book by sending a photocopy of the title page and verso page (even if the latter is blank) to Michael Hart. The pages should be sent as scans to be uploaded on the website. For people who cannot create scans, it is possible to send photocopies by postal mail. The pages will then be filed, either on paper or electronically, so that the proof will be available in the future, to demonstrate if necessary that the book is in the public domain under the US law. Project Gutenberg doesn't release any book until the book's copyright status has been confirmed.
What is entailed exactly, once copyright clearance is received? Digitization is done by scanning the book page after page to get "image" files. Then volunteers run an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to convert "image" files into text files. Then each text file is proofread (i.e. re-read and corrected) by comparing it to the "image" file or the original page of the print version. There is an average of 10 mistakes per page for a good OCR package, and many more mistakes if the quality of the scanner and the OCR package is not great.
The book is proofread twice on the computer screen by two different people, who make any corrections necessary. When the original is in poor condition, as with very old books, it is keyed in manually, word by word. Some volunteers themselves prefer to type short texts, or works they particularly like. But most books are scanned, "OCRized" and proofread.
Contrary to digitization in "image format", which consists only in scanning the pages, digitization in "text format" adds the OCR step: a) the book can be copied, indexed, searched, analyzed and compared with other books; b) it is possible to search the content of the book with the "Find" button available in any browser and any software, without a specific search engine.
The assets of digitization in "text format" are numerous. It makes a smaller and more easily sendable computer file, unlike digitization in "image format", which produces a bulky "photo" file. Contrary to other formats, the files are accessible for low-bandwidth use. They can be copied as much as needed to produce new digital or print versions for free. The typos pointed out after the text is released can be fixed at any time. Readers can change the font and size of characters, the margins or the number of lines per page. Visually impaired readers can increase the letter size. Blind readers can use speech recognition software. All this is very difficult, if not impossible, with many other formats.
If the books released are 99.9% accurate in the eyes of the general reader, the goal is not to create authoritative editions, and to argue with a picky reader whether a certain sentence should have a colon instead of a semi-colon between its clauses.
Project Gutenberg is convinced that proofreading by human beings is a very important step, and that this step makes all the difference. The use of scanned books as is --converted to text format by OCR software with no proofreading-- gives a much lower quality result. After running OCR software, the text is 99% reliable, in the best of cases. After proofreading, the text becomes 99.95% reliable (a high percentage which is also the standard at the Library of Congress).
For this reason, Project Gutenberg's perspective is rather different from that of the Internet Archive. In its Text Archive, books are scanned and "OCRized", but they are not proofread. The main formats used are XML, TIF and DjVu. Books are not proofread either in other main collections: Open Content Alliance (OCA), Google Books Search or Microsoft Live Books Search.
Project Gutenberg provides a "Nearly Full Text" search (on the first 100 K of each file) using Google, with a database updated approximately monthly. It also provides a search of book metadata (author, title, brief description, keywords) as a participant in Yahoo!'s Content Acquisition Program, with a database updated weekly. Both are available in the Online Book Catalog (at the bottom of the page). In the Advanced Search, several fields can be filled: author, title, subject, language, category (any, audio book, music, pictures), LoCC (Library of Congress Catalog classification), filetype (text, PDF, HTML, XML, JPEG, etc.), and eText/eBook No. A field "Full Text" was also added as an experimental feature.
On Project Gutenberg's website, a File Recode Service allows users to convert books in one format (ASCII, ISO-8859, Unicode and others) into another, and vice versa. A much more powerful conversion program may be launched in the future, with a conversion into still more formats (XML, HTML, PDF, TeX, RTF), including Braille and voice. It will then also be possible to choose the font and size of characters and the background color. Another eagerly expected conversion is that of a book from one language to another by machine translation software. This may be possible in a few years, when machine translation is accurate to 99%. Still, these books will certainly need some proofreading too by human translators.
4. SHARED PROOFREADING
The main "leap forward" of Project Gutenberg in the last few years is due to Distributed Proofreaders. Distributed Proofreaders was launched in October 2000 by Charles Franks to help in the digitizing of public domain books. Originally meant to assist Project Gutenberg in the handling of shared proofreading, Distributed Proofreaders became the main source of Project Gutenberg books. In 2002, Distributed Proofreaders became an official Project Gutenberg site. In May 2006, Distributed Proofreaders became a separate entity and continues to maintain a strong relationship with Project Gutenberg.
Volunteers don't have a quota to fill, but it is recommended they do a page a day if possible. It doesn't seem much, but with hundreds of volunteers it really adds up. In 2003, about 250-300 people were working each day all over the world, producing a daily total of 2,500-3,000 pages, the equivalent of two pages a minute. In 2004, the average was 300-400 proofreaders participating each day, and finishing 4,000-7,000 pages per day, the equivalent of four pages a minute. The number of books that have been processed through Distributed Proofreaders has grown fast, with a total of 3,000 books in February 2004, 5,000 books in October 2004 and 7,000 books in May 2005, 8,000 books in February 2006 and 10,000 books in March 2007, with five books produced per day and 52,000 volunteers in December 2007.
From the website one can access a program that allows several proofreaders to be working on the same book at the same time, each proofreading on different pages. This significantly speeds up the proofreading process. Volunteers register and receive detailed instructions. For example, words in bold, italic or underlined, or footnotes are always treated the same way for any book. A discussion forum allows them to ask questions or seek help at any time. A project manager oversees the progress of a particular book through its different steps on the website.
The website gives a full list of the books that are: a) completed, i.e. processed through the site and posted to Project Gutenberg; b) in progress, i.e. processed through the site but not yet posted, because currently going through their final proofreading and assembly; c) being proofread, i.e. currently being processed. On August 3, 2005, 7,639 books were completed, 1,250 books were in progress and 831 books were being proofread. On May 1st, 2008, 13,039 books were completed, 1,840 books were in progress and 1,000 books were being proofread.
Each time a volunteer (proofreader) goes to the website, s/he chooses a book, any book. One page of the book appears in two forms side by side: the scanned image of one page and the text from that image (as produced by OCR software). The proofreader can easily compare both versions, note the differences and fix them. OCR is usually 99% accurate, which makes for about 10 corrections a page. The proofreader saves each page as it is completed and can then either stop work or do another. The books are proofread twice, and the second time only by experienced proofreaders. All the pages of the book are then formatted, combined and assembled by post-processors to make an eBook. The eBook is now ready to be posted with an index entry (title, subtitle, author, eBook number and character set) for the database. Indexers go on with the cataloging process (author's dates of birth and death, Library of Congress classification, etc.) after the release.
Volunteers can also work independently, after contacting Project Gutenberg directly, by keying in a book they particularly like using any text editor or word processor. They can also scan it and convert it into text using OCR software, and then make corrections by comparing it with the original. In each case, someone else will proofread it. They can use ASCII and any other format. Everybody is welcome, whatever the method and whatever the format.
New volunteers are most welcome too at Distributed Proofreaders (DP), Distributed Proofreaders Europe (DP Europe) and Distributed Proofreaders Canada (DPC). Any volunteer anywhere is welcome, for any language. There is a lot to do. As stated on both websites, "Remember that there is no commitment expected on this site. Proofread as often or as seldom as you like, and as many or as few pages as you like. We encourage people to do 'a page a day', but it's entirely up to you! We hope you will join us in our mission of 'preserving the literary history of the world in a freely available form for everyone to use'."
5. BECOMING MULTILINGUAL
What about languages? First Project Gutenberg's books are mostly in English. As it has been based in the United States since 1971, it has focused on the English-speaking community in the country and worldwide. Multilingualism started in 1997.
In October 1997, Michael Hart expressed his intention to include books in other languages. At the beginning of 1998, the catalog had a few titles in French (10 titles), German, Italian, Spanish and Latin. In July 1999, Michael wrote: "I am publishing in one new language per month right now, and will continue as long as possible."
In February 2004, there were works in 25 languages. In July 2005, there were works in 42 languages, including Iroquoian, Sanskrit and the Mayan languages. The seven main languages -- with more than 50 books -- were English, French, German, Finnish, Dutch, Spanish and Chinese. In December 2006, there were books in 50 languages. They were ten main languages, the above ones plus Italian, Portuguese and Tagalog. In April 2008, there were books in 55 languages, with eleven main languages, the above ones plus Latin. Esperanto was not far with 45 books, and Swedish followed with 40 books.
French is the second main language after English. On February 13, 2004, there were 181 books in French (out of a total of 11,340 books). On May 16, 2005, there were 547 books in French (out of a total of 15,505 books). The number tripled in 15 months. On July 27, 2005, there were 577 books in French (out of a total of 16,800 books). On December 16, 2006, there were 966 books in French (out of a total of 19,996 books). On April 21, 2008, there were 1,168 books in French (out of a total of 25,004 books). The number of French books is expected to rise significantly in a few years, when Project Gutenberg Europe will run at full speed.
What were the first books posted in French? They were six novels by Stendhal and two novels by Jules Verne, all released in early 1997. The six novels by Stendhal were: L'Abbesse de Castro, Les Cenci, La Chartreuse de Parme, La Duchesse de Palliano, Le Rouge et le Noir and Vittoria Accoramboni. The two novels by Jules Verne were: De la terre à la lune and Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours. In early 1997, whereas Project Gutenberg offered no English version of any of Stendhal's writings (yet), three of Jules Verne's novels were available in English: 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas (original title: Vingt mille lieues sous les mers), posted in September 1994; Around the World in 80 Days (original title: Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours), posted in January 1994 and From the Earth to the Moon (original title: De la terre à la lune), posted in September 1993. Stendhal and Jules Verne were followed by Edmond Rostand with Cyrano de Bergerac, posted in March 1998.
In late 1999, the "Top 20" --the 20 most downloaded authors-- included Jules Verne at 11 and Emile Zola at 16. They still have a very good ranking in the present "Top 100".
As a side remark, the first "images" ever made available by Project Gutenberg were French Cave Paintings, posted in April 1995, with an XHTML version posted in November 2000. This book contains four photos of paleolithic paintings found in a grotto located in Ardèche, a region of south-eastern France. These photos, which are copyrighted, were made available to Project Gutenberg thanks to Jean Clottes, a French general curator for cultural heritage (conservateur général du patrimoine), for everyone to enjoy them.
In 2004, multilingualism became one of the priorities of Project Gutenberg, like internationalization. Michael Hart went off to Europe, with stops in Paris, Brussels and Belgrade. He gave a lecture on February 12, 2004 at UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) headquarters in Paris. He chaired a discussion at the French National Assembly on February 13. The following week, he addressed the European Parliament, in Brussels. He also met with the team of Project Rastko, in Belgrade, to support the creation of Distributed Proofreaders Europe (launched in December 2003) and Project Gutenberg Europe (launched in January 2004).
The launching of Distributed Proofreaders Europe (DP Europe) by Project Rastko was indeed a very important step. DP Europe uses the software of the original Distributed Proofreaders and is dedicated to the proofreading of books for Project Gutenberg Europe. Since its very beginnings, DP Europe has been a multilingual website, with its main pages translated into several European languages by volunteer translators. DP Europe was available in 12 languages in April 2004 and 22 languages in May 2008.
The long-term goal is 60 languages and 60 linguistic teams representing all the European languages. When it gets up to speed, DP Europe will provide books for several national and/or linguistic digital libraries, for example Projet Gutenberg France for France. The goal is for every country to have its own digital library (according to the country copyright limitations), within a continental network (for France, the European network) and a global network (for the whole planet).
A few lines now on Project Rastko, which launched such a difficult and exciting project for Europe, and catalysed volunteers' energy in both Eastern and Western Europe (and anywhere else: as the internet has no boundaries, there is no need to live in Europe to register). Founded in 1997, Project Rastko is a non-governmental cultural and educational project. One of its goals is the online publishing of Serbian culture. It is part of the Balkans Cultural Network Initiative, a regional cultural network for the Balkan peninsula in south-eastern Europe.
In May 2005, Distributed Proofreaders Europe finished processing its 100th eBook. In June 2005 Project Gutenberg Europe was launched with these first 100 books. PG Europe operates under "life +50" copyright laws. DP Europe supports Unicode to be able to proofread books in numerous languages. Created in 1991 and widely used since 1998, Unicode is an encoding system that gives a unique number for every character in any language, contrary to the much older ASCII that was meant only for English and a few European languages.
On August 3, 2005, 137 books were completed (processed through the site and posted to Project Gutenberg Europe), 418 books were in progress (processed through the site but not yet posted, because currently going through their final proofreading and assembly), and 125 books were being proofread (currently being processed). On May 10th, 2008, 496 books were completed, 653 books were in progress and 91 books were being proofread.
6. PUBLIC DOMAIN VS. COPYRIGHT
As stated in the Project Gutenberg FAQ, "the public domain is the set of cultural works that are free of copyright, and belong to everyone equally", i.e. that books that can be digitized to be freely available on the internet. But the task of Project Gutenberg isn't made any easier by the increasing restrictions to the public domain. In former times, 50% of works belonged to the public domain, and could be freely used by everybody. A much tougher legislation was set in place over the centuries, step by step, especially during the 20th century, despite our so-called "information society". In 2100, 99% of works might be governed by copyright, with a meager 1% for public domain.
In the Copyright HowTo section, Project Gutenberg presents its own rules for confirming the public domain status of books according to US copyright laws. Here is a summary. Works published before 1923 entered the public domain no later than 75 years from the copyright date. (All these works are now in the public domain.) Works published between 1923 and 1977 retain copyright for 95 years. (No such works will enter the public domain until 2019.) Works created from 1978 on enter the public domain 70 years after the death of the author if the author is a natural person. (Nothing will enter the public domain until 2049.) Works created from 1978 on enter the public domain 95 years after publication (or 120 years after creation) if the author is a corporate one. (Nothing will enter the public domain until 2074.) Other rules apply too. The copyright law was amended 11 times between 1976 and now.
Much more restrictive than the previous one, the current legislation became effective after the promulgation of amendments to the 1976 Copyright Act, dated October 27th, 1998. As explained by Michael Hart in July 1999: "Nothing will expire for another 20 years. We used to have to wait 75 years. Now it is 95 years. And it was 28 years (+ a possible 28 year extension, only on request) before that, and 14 years (+ a possible 14 year extension) before that. So, as you can see, this is a serious degrading of the public domain, as a matter of continuing policy."
These amendments were a major blow for digital libraries and deeply shocked their founders, beginning with Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg in 1971, and John Mark Ockerbloom, founder of The Online Books Page in 1993. But how were they to measure up to the major publishing companies?
Michael wrote in July 1999: "No one has said more against copyright extensions than I have, but Hollywood and the big publishers have seen to it that our Congress won't even mention it in public. The kind of copyright debate going on is totally impractical. It is run by and for the 'Landed Gentry of the Information Age.' 'Information Age'? For whom?"
John wrote in August 1999: "I think it's important for people on the web to understand that copyright is a social contract that's designed for the public good -- where the public includes both authors and readers. This means that authors should have the right to exclusive use of their creative works for limited times, as is expressed in current copyright law. But it also means that their readers have the right to copy and reuse the work at will once copyright expires. In the US now, there are various efforts to take rights away from readers, by restricting fair use, lengthening copyright terms (even with some proposals to make them perpetual) and extending intellectual property to cover facts separate from creative works (such as found in the "database copyright" proposals). There are even proposals to effectively replace copyright law altogether with potentially much more onerous contract law."
The political authorities continually speak about an information age while tightening the laws relating to the dissemination of information. The contradiction is obvious. This problem has also affected Australia (forcing Project Gutenberg of Australia to withdraw dozens of books from its collections) and several European countries. In a number of countries, the rule is now life of the author plus 70 years, instead of life plus 50 years, following pressure from content owners, with the subsequent "harmonization" of national copyright laws as a response to the "globalization of the market".
But there is still hope for some books published after 1923. According to Greg Newby, director of PGLAF (Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation), one million books published between 1923 and 1964 could also belong to the public domain, because only 10% of copyrights were actually renewed. Project Gutenberg tries to locate these books. In April 2004, with the help of hundreds of volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders, all Copyright Renewal records were posted for books from 1950 through 1977. So, if a given book published during this period is not on the list, it means the copyright was not renewed, and the book fell into the public domain. In April 2007, Stanford University used this data to create a Copyright Renewal Database, searchable by title, author, copyright date and copyright renewal date.
7. FROM THE PAST TO THE FUTURE
The bet made by Michael Hart in 1971 succeeded. Project Gutenberg counted 10 books online in August 1989; 100 books in January 1994; 1,000 books in August 1997; 2,000 books in May 1999; 3,000 books in December 2000; 4,000 books in October 2001; 5,000 books in April 2002; 10,000 books in October 2003; 15,000 books in January 2005; 20,000 books in December 2006 and 25,000 books in April 2008.
But Project Gutenberg's results are not only measured in numbers, which can't compete yet with the number of print books in the public domain. The results also include the major influence that the project has had. As the oldest producer of free books on the internet, Project Gutenberg has inspired many other digital libraries, for example Projekt Gutenberg-DE for classic German literature and Projekt Runeberg for classic Nordic (Scandinavian) literature, to name only two, which started respectively in 1992 and 1994.
Project Gutenberg keeps its administrative and financial structure to the bare minimum. Its motto fits into three words: "Less is more". The minimal rules give much space to volunteers and to new ideas. The goal is to ensure its independence from loans and other funding and from ephemeral cultural priorities, to avoid pressure from politicians or economic interests. The aim is also to ensure respect for the volunteers, who can be confident their work will be used not just for decades but for centuries. Volunteers can network through mailing lists, weekly or monthly newsletters, discussion lists, wikis and forums.
Donations are used to buy equipment and supplies, mostly computers and scanners. Founded in 2000, the PGLAF (Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation) has only three part-time employees.
More generally, Michael should be given more credit as the real inventor of the electronic book (eBook). If we consider the eBook in its etymological sense, that is to say a book that has been digitized to be distributed as an electronic file, it is now 37 years old and was born with Project Gutenberg in July 1971. This is a much more comforting paternity than the various commercial launchings in proprietary formats that peppered the early 2000s. There is no reason for the term "eBook" to be the monopoly of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others. The non-commercial eBook is a full eBook, and not a "poor" version, just as non-commercial electronic publishing is a fully-fledged way of publishing, and as valuable as commercial electronic publishing. Project Gutenberg eTexts are now called eBooks, to use the recent terminology in the field.
In July 1971, sending a 5K file to 100 people would have crashed the network of the time. In November 2002, Project Gutenberg could post the 75 files of the Human Genome Project, with files of dozens or hundreds of megabytes, shortly after its initial release in February 2001, because it was public domain. In 2004, a computer hard disk costing US$140 could potentially hold the entire Library of Congress. And we probably are only a few years away from a storage disk capable of holding all the print media of our planet.
What about documents other than text? In September 2003, Project Gutenberg launched Project Gutenberg Audio eBooks. As of December 2006, there are 367 computer-generated audio books and 132 human-read audio books. The number of human-read books should greatly increase over the next few years. There were 412 books in May 2008. As for computer-generated books, they won't be stored in a specific section any more, but "converted" when requested from the existing electronic files in the main collections. Voice-activated requests will be possible, as a useful tool for visually impaired readers.
Launched at the same time, The Sheet Music Subproject is dedicated to digitized music sheet. It also contains a few music recordings. Some still pictures and moving pictures are also available. These new collections should take off in the future.
But digitizing books remains the priority, and there is a big demand, as confirmed by the tens of thousands of books that are downloaded every day. For example, on July 31, 2005, there were 37,532 downloads for the day, 243,808 downloads for the week, and 1,154,765 downloads for the month. On May 6, 2007, there were 89,841 downloads for the day, 697,818 downloads for the week, and 2,995,436 downloads for the month. A few days later, the number of downloads for the month hit the landmark of 3 million downloads. On May 8, 2008, there were 115,138 downloads for the day, 714,323 downloads for the week, and 3,055,327 downloads for the month. This only for transfers from ibiblio.org (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), the main book distribution site (which also hosts the website). The Internet Archive is the backup distribution site and provides unlimited disk space for storage and processing.
Project Gutenberg has 40 mirror sites in many countries and is looking for new ones. It also encourages the use of P2P for sharing its books.
The "Top 100" lists the top 100 books and the top 100 authors for the previous day, the last 7 days and the last 30 days.
Project Gutenberg books can also help bridge the "digital divide." They can be read on a computer or a secondhand PDA costing just a few dollars. Solar-powered PDAs offer a good solution in remote regions and developing countries.
Later on, it is hoped machine translation software will be able to convert the books from one to another of 100 languages. In ten years from now, it is possible that machine translation will be judged 99% satisfactory (research is very active on that front, but there is still a lot to do), allowing for the reading of literary classics in a choice of many languages. In 2004, Project Gutenberg was in touch with a European project studying how to combine translation software and human translators, somewhat as OCR software is now combined with the work of proofreaders.
37 years after the beginnings of Project Gutenberg, Michael Hart describes himself as a workaholic who devotes his entire life to his project, because he thinks electronic books will become the "killer ap(plication)" of the computer revolution. He considers himself a pragmatic and farsighted altruist. For years he was regarded as a nut but now he is respected. He wants to change the world through freely-available books that can be used and copied endlessly. Reading and culture for everyone at minimal cost. Project Gutenberg's mission can be stated in eight words: "To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks," by everybody, and by every possible means. While implementing new ideas, new methods and new software.
According to him, there might be 25 million books belonging to public domain in the main regional and national libraries in the world, without counting various editions. If Gutenberg allowed everyone to get print books at little cost, Project Gutenberg could allow everyone to get a library of electronic books at no cost on a cheap device like a USB drive. So far, in April 2008, 25,000 high-quality books were available for free.
Let us give the last word to Michael, whom I asked in August 1998: "What is your best experience with the internet?" His answer was: "The notes I get that tell me people appreciate that I have spent my life putting books, etc., on the internet. Some are quite touching, and can make my whole day." Ten years later, he confirms that his answer would still be the same.
[*1971/07 = year/month]
1971/07: Michael Hart keyed in The United States Declaration of Independence (eBook #1) and informed the first 100 internet users. Project Gutenberg was born.
1972: He keyed in The United States Bill of Rights (eBook #2).
1973: He keyed in The United States Constitution (eBook #5).
1974-88: He keyed in parts of the Bible and several works of Shakespeare.
1989/08: The King James Bible (eBook #10).
1991/01: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Caroll (eBook #11).
1991/06: Peter Pan, by James Barrie (eBook #16).
1991: Digitization of one book per month.
1992: Digitization of two books per month.
1993: Digitization of four books per month.
1993/12: Creation of three main sections: Light Literature, Heavy Literature, Reference Literature.
1994: Digitization of eight books per month.
1994/01: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (eBook #100).
1995: Digitization of 16 books per month.
1996-97: Digitization of 32 books per month.
1997/08: La Divina Commedia di Dante, in Italian (eBook #1000).
1997: Launching of Project Gutenberg Consortia Center (PGCC).
1998-2000: Digitization of 36 books per month.
1999/05: Don Quijote, by Cervantès, in Spanish (eBook #2000).
2000: Creation of Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation (PGLAF).
2000/10: Charles Franks started Distributed Proofreaders to assist Project Gutenberg.
2000/12: A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, 3rd volume, by Proust, in French (eBook #3000).
2001/08: Creation of Project Gutenberg of Australia.
2001/10: The French Immortals Series (eBook #4000).
2001: Digitization of 104 books per month.
2001: Distributed Proofreaders became the main source of Project Gutenberg books.
2002: Distributed Proofreaders became an official Project Gutenberg site.
2002/04: The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (eBook #5000).
2002: Digitization of 203 books per month.
2003/08: "Best of Gutenberg" CD with 600 books.
2003/09: Launching of Project Gutenberg Audio eBooks.
2003/10: The number of books doubled in 18 months, going from 5,000 to 10,000.
2003/10: The Magna Carta (eBook #10000).
2003/12: First DVD, with 9,400 books.
2003: Digitization of 348 books per month.
2003: Project Gutenberg Consortia Center (PGCC) became an official Project Gutenberg site.
2003/12: Launching of Distributed Proofreaders Europe by Project Rastko.
2004/01: Launching of Project Gutenberg Europe by Project Rastko.
2004/02: Michael Hart went off to Europe (Paris, Brussels, Belgrade).
2004/02: Michael Hart's presentation at UNESCO headquarters, in Paris.
2004/02: Michael Hart's visit to the European Parliament, in Brussels.
2004/10: 5,000 books processed by Distributed Proofreaders.
2004: Digitization of 338 books per month.
2005/01: The Life of Reason, by George Santayana (eBook #15000).
2005/05: 7,000 books processed by Distributed Proofreaders.
2005/05: First 100 books processed by Distributed Proofreaders Europe.
2005/06: 16,000 books in Project Gutenberg.
2005/06: First 100 books in Project Gutenberg Europe.
2005/07: 500 books at Project Gutenberg of Australia.
2005/10: 5th anniversary of Distributed Proofreaders.
2005: Digitization of 252 books per month.
2006/01: Launching of Project Gutenberg PrePrints.
2006/02: 8,000 books processed by Distributed Proofreaders.
2006/05: Creation of the Distributed Proofreaders Foundation.
2006/07: 35th anniversary of Project Gutenberg.
2006/07: New DVD, with 17,000 books.
2006/11: Launching of the Project Gutenberg News website.
2006/12: 20,000 books in Project Gutenberg.
2006/12: 400 books processed by Distributed Proofreaders Europe.
2006: Digitization of 345 books per month.
2007/03: 10,000 books processed by Distributed Proofreaders.
2007/04: 1,500 books in Project Gutenberg of Australia.
2007/07: Creation of Project Gutenberg Canada (PGC).
2007/12: Launching of Distributed Proofreaders of Canada (DPC).
2007: Digitization of 338 books per month.
2008/03: 100 books in Project Gutenberg of Canada.
2008/04: 25,000 books in Project Gutenberg.
2008/04: English Book Collectors, by William Younger Fletcher (eBook #25000).
2008/05: 500 books in Project Gutenberg Europe.
*All the stats below are the main Project Gutenberg stats. Stats about other Project Gutenberg sites (Australia, Canada, Europe) are provided in Project Gutenberg News.
= A Few Milestones
1,000 books in August 1997.
2,000 books in May 1999.
3,000 books in December 2000.
4,000 books in October 2001.
5,000 books in April 2002.
10,000 books in October 2003.
15,000 books in January 2005.
20,000 books in December 2006.
25,000 books in April 2008.
= New Books: Yearly Averages
2001: 1,244 books per year.
2002: 2,432 books per year.
2003: 4,176 books per year.
2004: 4,058 books per year.
2005: 3,019 books per year.
2006: 4,141 books per year.
2007: 4,049 books per year.
= New Books: Monthly Averages
2001: 104 books per month.
2002: 203 books per month.
2003: 348 books per month.
2004: 338 books per month.
2005: 252 books per month.
2006: 345 books per month.
2007: 338 books per month.
= New Books: Weekly Averages
2001: 24 books per week.
2002: 47 books per week.
2003: 79 books per week.
2004: 78 books per week.
2005: 58 books per week.
2006: 80 books per week.
2007: 78 books per week.
= A Few eBooks
eBook #1: The United States Declaration of Independence (1776) [posted in July 1971].
eBook #2: The United States Bill of Rights (1789) [posted in 1972].
eBook #5: The United States Constitution (1787) [posted in 1973].
eBook #10: The King James Bible (1769) [posted in August 1989].
eBook #11: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Caroll (1865) [posted in January 1991].
eBook #16: Peter Pan, by James Barrie (1904) [posted in June 1991].
eBook #100: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (1590-1613) [posted in January 1994].
eBook #1000: La Divina Commedia di Dante (1321, in Italian) [posted in August 1997].
eBook #2000: Don Quichote, by Cervantès (1605, in Spanish) [posted in May 1999].
eBook #3000: A l'ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs, vol. 3, by Marcel Proust (1919, in French) [posted in December 2000].
eBook #4000: The French Immortals Series (1905) [posted in October 2001].
eBook #5000: The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (early 16th century) [posted in April 2002].
eBook #10000: The Magna Carta (early 13th century) [posted in October 2003].
eBook #15000: The Life of Reason, by George Santayana (1906) [posted in January 2005].
eBook #20000: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne (1869), audio book [posted in December 2006].
eBook #25000: English Book Collectors, by William Younger Fletcher (1902) [posted in April 2008].
= Number of Languages With 50+ Books
January 2004: 25 languages.
July 2005: 42 languages.
December 2006: 50 languages.
April 2008: 55 languages.
= Main Languages
July 2005: English, French, German, Finnish, Dutch, Spanish, Chinese. [Out of a total of 16,800 books on July 27, 2005, 14,548 books are in English, 577 books in French, 349 books in German, 218 books in Finnish, 130 books in Dutch, 103 books in Spanish and 69 books in Chinese.]
December 2006: English, French, German, Finnish, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese, Tagalog. [Out of a total of 19,996 books on December 16, 2006, 17,377 books are in English, 966 books in French, 412 books in German, 344 books in Finnish, 244 books in Dutch, 140 books in Spanish, 102 books in Italian, 69 books in Chinese, 68 books in Portuguese and 51 books in Tagalog.]
April 2008: English, French, German, Finnish, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Tagalog. [Out of a total of 25,004 books on April 21, 2008, 21,475 books are in English, 1,168 books in French, 530 books in German, 433 books in Finnish, 326 books in Dutch, 217 books in Portuguese, 196 books in Chinese, 180 books in Spanish, 128 books in Italian, 55 books in Latin and 54 books in Tagalog.]
= Downloads From ibiblio.org
*ibiblio.org is the main downloading site. The downloads of mirror sites are not included here.
July 31, 2005: 37,532 files downloaded in the day; 243,808 files downloaded in the week; 1,154,765 files downloaded in the month.
May 6, 2007: 89,841 files downloaded in the day; 697,818 files downloaded in the week; 2,995,436 files downloaded in the month.
May 8, 2008: 115,138 files downloaded in the day; 714,323 files downloaded in the week; 3,055,327 files downloaded in the month.
Distributed Proofreaders (DP): http://www.pgdp.net/
Distributed Proofreaders Canada (DPC): http://www.pgdpcanada.net/
Distributed Proofreaders Europe (DP Europe): http://dp.rastko.net/
Hart, Michael (blog): http://hart.pglaf.org/
Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/
Project Gutenberg / Catalog: http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/
Project Gutenberg / File Recode Service: http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/recode.php
Project Gutenberg / Top 100: http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/scores/top
Project Gutenberg Canada (PGC): http://www.gutenberg.ca/
Project Gutenberg Consortia Center (PGCC): http://www.gutenberg.us/
Project Gutenberg Europe (PG Europe): http://pge.rastko.net/
Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation (PGLAF): http://www.pglaf.org/
Project Gutenberg News (PG News): http://www.pg-news.org/
Project Gutenberg of Australia: http://gutenberg.net.au/
Project Gutenberg of the Philippines (PGPH): http://www.gutenberg.ph/
Project Gutenberg PrePrints: http://preprints.readingroo.ms/
Projekt Gutenberg-DE: http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/
Project Runeberg: http://runeberg.org/
Copyright © 2008 Marie Lebert