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Article On Project Gutenberg Founder 171

P.J. Hinton writes: "The News-Gazette, a newspaper in Champaign, IL, ran a feature in their Sunday edition about the founder of Project Gutenberg. Besides offering descriptions of his unusual eating habits, it gives an insight into the projects foundations almost thirty years ago and notes some criticism that he's received for his work. Defintiely a good read and a reminder that long before CDA, RIAA, MPAA, DMCA, and the USPTO, there were other entities all too willing to block access to information. "
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Article On Project Gutenberg Founder

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    "She was worried that it could be locked away from people by one authority"

    Thousands of computers in thousands of physical locations with such "books" would be just as hard to get rid of as regular books. Of course, right now, electronic books are harder to get since the technology hasn't exactly been embraced yet (see recurring issue about infinitely copied digital works). Eventually the market will change to match the new technology - it just won't be in the immediate future.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    But please understand y'all, that resonable solution is reached only beacause there have been people who were/are willing to fight for the Right Thing(tm) and not thanks to people who think "oh, this will sort itself out in some time".

    And those people usually do not get respect or understanding from simple John Q. Popcorn.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you have markup, making the text pretty (and omitting its structure) is easy. If the structure (chapters, footnotes, emphasis) has already been destroyed, you can only recover some of it ad hoc with a lot of mind-numbing labor even if you have tools for educated guessing, and for the original conversion to leave the hard part for everyone else to do and re-do is appalling.

    There are plenty of cross-platform, human-readable formats that don't require throwing away irreplacable information.

  • Ha. I was thinking of writing a "I declare thee 80md" post, but you beat me to it, man ;-)

    Congrats on another successful troll, 80md.


  • The choice of books to be included in the project is made by the people involved in the project, Hart has no say in this and will do everything within his power to avoid suggesting a book for you to work on, he serves more as an administrator of the whole project, keeping it working and from falling off the ends of the earth.

    What I found interesting was the criticism levelled by other academics towards the project - it rather mirrors some of the pissy whining in the free software world. Lots of people complaining about choices of editions, editorial quality, and so forth, but none of them willing to get off their butts and help the project do it better.

  • Public libraries have been a standard in the US for so long that free access to information is now taken for granted. The only thing offered by this repository is convenience. It is an advance, with advantages, but not a revolution.

    There are a fre points to address here:

    • The world is not the United States. There are plenty of places in the world (and the United States, for that matter) that cannot afford reasonable libraries. PG can be read on low-end (archaic!) PCs, printed for people and so forth whose community would never provide them with public library facilities. And we're not talking just the third world here a friend just came back from the UK with horror stories of the impoverished state of most public libraries.
    • Libraries are subject to all manner of political machinations, and if one lives in a conservative community, one may find a well-funded public library with certain gaps in its collection. Consider the pressure to keep Catcher in the Rye, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn out of public libraries, and that's before one considers material which might arouse controversy in a more liberal community (such as the Diaries of Walter or the sundry works of de Sade). Unpopularity can easily result in material being quashed.
    • Just because something may be reproduced (be in the public domain) doesn't mean in will. PG includes any number of texts which are out of print. Even if a public library wanted to stock them, it may well not be able to find editions. I have this problem with my favourite poet, Wilfred Owen, who is no longer in print - the last edition of his work I can find is one published 10 years ago as a limited edition, and the rest of his work is available only trawling second hand bookstores or getting his more popular stuff in collections of WW I poetry.

    Fundamentally, Gutenberg is about giving people the power to make choices about their reading material, and to put a large corpus thereof in a form people can actually use.

    The revolution of Gutenberg's press, incidentally, was not allowing reproduction of books. Anyone could do that before. It was to make it affordable, and take it out of the hands of the clergy and make it an activity anyoine in secular society could participate in. The comparison to publishing over the net as an enabler is quite apt.

  • Are librarians ruling the world?
  • I'd like to see that.
  • Yes, although I fully agree that Project Gutenberg was revolutionary, given a choice today between a PG pure ASCII edition lacking formatting and figures on one hand and someone else's nicely formatted HTML book (and in many cases, this is an actual, not a theoretical, choice) on the other, I'll take the HTML version. And in most cases, the HTML edition was done totally independently of the PG edition.
  • I just want to thank you for all the great work youve done on the PG site. Style Hags and Design Wonks may bash you on points, but very few sites offer the wealth of CONTENT (yes content, i know its a dirty word on the web) in an other wise empty waste land of pretty eyecandy.

  • http://wsmf.org/texts/emonks/ [wsmf.org]

    There is no reason there should be just ONE (or several) sources for this sort of thing.

    All Praises to Hart and PG, he has done a herculean task for DECADES....


    Distibuted librarys and multi homed sources are the way to start thinking. Yes there needs to be a peer review and proofing of works going on line, but for collectors and folks looking it is far more useable to have a few dozen differnts ways and places of access this stuff.

    Such as http://wsmf.org/texts/emonks/ [wsmf.org]

    If you have a collection of etexts or resources, put them up and spread the links. If the works are not already in one of the more popular resources (etexts, pg, etc) send it up for inclusion.

    Spread the Words.
  • Yes, he was, he also developed the MIRV, helped with ICBMs, advised Reagan on the SDI, and more or less devoted his life to developing technologies to further the cause of mass destruction. "He's a danger to all that is important. I really do think it would have been a better world without Teller"
    -- physicist I. I. Rabi, 1973. Go here [wps.com] for a pseudo-not-quite-tribute
  • 99.9% free of errors means (if it refers to individual letters) that there is one error every thousand letters, or around one per page. If it's talking about words, it's still one typo every four or five pages. I get annoyed when I find two typos in an entire book, though this is admittedly at least somewhat because I *paid* for it.
  • They currently DO use OCR.
  • What about putting the slashdot effect to good use ? Have the EFF or some other trustable third-party set up a web page with all kinds of banners from around the internet. If every user took time out each day to click on those banners, at 2-5 cents per click; the money could add up very quickly. I've tried suggesting this before, hope someone will take advantage of it.
  • True, but plain ASCII is easier to convert to whatever format you need. If you need it to be ACERTAINFORMAT.*, it is easier to go from the base ASCII. For example, I have converted several texts from PG to Rocket eBook format for downloading to my eBook. The eBook format is a subset of HTML 3.2 and it's easy to convert ASCII to .reb thanks to certain free utilities written by eBook owners. Hart's whole point was to make all the text available in a format that crosses all OS's.
  • The problem here is that libraries don't have the physical space for what the electronic format could contain. Project Gutenberg is trying to get as much information as possible into the Etext databases - a million books? more? - which is much more than a physical library can hold. It may not be a revolution, but it sure as hell is a great adjustment of what we do have.

    And how often have you suffered from a book decomposing or being stolen from a library?
  • Some Gutenberg in PDF format here: Electric Book [elecbook.com]
  • One way was to evaluate various "trees" - we'd feed in a file from gutenburg, and it'll add "words" (delimited with whitespace - we're talking C++ extraction operators here) to the tree.

    Then, using that tree, search for several words, timing the length of time it takes to perform the search. It's certainly more fun playing around with real text and searching through it (500k - searches/tree insertions aren't "instant").

    I suspect using Gutenburg for data processing isn't exactly unique... but it provides a nice example to do lots of stuff with "interestingly-sized" data, rather than the 10 pieces of data that people have to make up.
  • The copyrights for the works of JRR Tolkien are held by his son, Christopher, and (I think) his other children.

  • I've read Michael Hart on Jon Noring's Ebook-List. The man is quite insufferable. Most of his posts were demonizing XML. But go ahead and build a portal to PG. The HWG is doing something similar: http://www.hwg.org/opcenter/gutenberg/index.html -- jean.jordaan@i.am . ... .... ///\\oo//\\\ Post Message: ebook-list@exemplary.net Get Commands: majordomo@exemplary.net "help" Administrator: Jon E. Noring, jon@exemplary.net Unsubscribe: majordomo@exemplary.net "unsubscribe ebook-list"
  • While a work remains in print, the copyright does not expire, since those associated with creating the printings usually take the few step required to maintain it. Tolkiens work is likely to remain in print for hundreds of years since it is one of the few truly great works of the past century (IMHO ).

    Those works are at least available. My greatest frustration is with copywritten books that are out of print such as The Anatomy of LISP. If I don't find a used copy, I don't read the book at all (I did manage to find a copy of Anatomy, but it took a year or so). Those that are hardest to find are those that cover woodworking techniques of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The best copies of these I can find are phototypeset from copies, and the pages are frequently slightly askew or damaged or even missing. This represents a real loss of information, since those skills are not practiced widely anymore.

    While PG has dealt with the likes of Shakespear, there has been almost no work on those technical works of the past. Not that I have any answers, it is just a problem that I see as a woodworker and blacksmith (in addition to computer geek).
  • Well, yes, and no.

    I could easily agree that preserving and disseminating the works of Shakespeare is more important than the latest comedy album from Adam Sandler. But that's my opinion. ;)

    Think of The Twilight Zone - literature doesn't have to have been born on paper to be valuable.

    ------Black Marlin

  • Oh god you hurt. Do you own massive shares of Microsoft and AOL/Time or something? How can you possibly believe that corperate domination and monopolization help the world? Socialism failed respectively, but it is still the basic governmental structure of many countries. American capitalism fails in giving freedom by making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

    As other responses have pointed out, copyright law is designed to give the knowledge back to the people, after a given amount of time.

    This man is great. Showing that the Open Source / GPL model can be logicially extrended beyond the limits of software. I'm just waiting for 'Open Source Canidate' to be listed the next time I'm at the polls.
  • If you don't like people being rich to begin with, then please say so.

    When the wealth is attained by stepping on the lower classes, yes I do have a problem. I see situations of people making masses of money by exploiting those around them. This is in my mind unjust.

    The middle class can go into a bookstore and acquire any of those texts for $4.95

    Do you support open source? Download Mp3's? I'm sorry for throwing a quick red herring in, but it seems to me that paying publishers for something they didn't create would follow logic goverened on the same principles as mp3s.

    The poor can go into a library and borrow exactly the same works for free. Well, not really. They paid taxes to be able to access that literature. Project Gutenburg gives (e)books without any direct or indirect cost.

    All said, I'm guessing that at some level it boils down to being an idealistic college student. See Bulworth.
  • I realize the mistake in my statement. I meant to convey the fact that the rich poor gap is widening.

    While the country as a whole *is* attaining greater wealth, it is strongly top heavy. 'Free' helps eliminate rich privilage.
  • Your reason is just a bad argument for warez.
    If you want to try out a game go get a free demo
    instead. You can get them from Magazine and
    legal ftp-sites.
    Don't support piracy.
  • sugar and mayonnaise :P He still has quite a lot of books on that site though.
  • I didn't get the impression, at least from this article, that I would burn in the fiery halls of hell for daring to purchase a book at a bookstore.
    I think a much better analogy with RMS' opinions would be that you would burn in hell if you sold, not bought, a book at a bookstore.
  • What makes ASCII so hot? ASCII is no different from these other standards, it's simply been around a little longer. One day it will be gone. And that day will probably be pretty soon with unicode coming around to replace it.

    Project Gutenberg's choice of ASCII was still wise, and the ASCII archive should be preserved. However, Project Gutenberg has actively discouraged presentation of the materials in other formats even in situations in which its exposure to the public, its readability, etc, would all be enhanced. They have gone from defenders of the lowest common denominator to ASCII snobs.

    8 bits to a byte is not a rule, and it can be changed, so can ASCII.
  • Both the comments here and in the article misconstrue one of the major complaints. This is due to a misinterpretation of the meaning of "error". For many of the older texts there is no single correct text. An important part of the text is the annotation that reveals the various different texts that have been found.

    Shakespeare and the Bible are two of the most widely studied texts. Neither has a "correct" text. Every Shakespeare play has multiple originals that differ. The Bible as no originals left, just multiple copies. These copies differ in details. Some of the differences are copying errors, some are deliberate modifications, some are the translations, and some are the result of language evolution.

    There are tools, like SGML markups, that allow the text to be annotated to reflect what is known about the history and evolution of a text. Project Guttenburg does not capture this information.

    For some texts this is not important. For other texts this is important. Some readers will not care. Other readers will care. The ones that care are complaining about the loss.

  • Actually some games (like starcraft) are slow in releasing demos. In fact the demo for starcraft didn't come out until well into the game's release. I still downloaded and played it, mostly because all the levels and storylines were new (the demo was set as a prequel). However, depending how much was gutted out of the original game the demo may not be worth the time to download.
  • Does anyone know when Tokiens work becomes free of copywrite? Too bad about that rubbish that gets printed by his son, the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion were great books, but everyhing that has come out since has been IMNSHO pretty pathetic. BTW a scanner with OCR would be a great thing for Project Gutenburg
  • getting a scanner with OCR would be invaluble to the Gutenburg project
  • I guess the question is, why aren't there more people working to help PG, to publicize and evangelize it like Linux does. Is it because there's no glamor in it? Or is it, as I originally thought, that people don't see money opportunity in it, or maybe a combination of both and other things?
  • Well an anonymous coward is even more obscure ...

    Firstly, the entire Universe may be a free lunch. It may be that there was a vacuum fluctuation so great that the universe was born just like that. At least, that is the gut feeling of quite a few cosmologists.

    Next, Your life is a free lunch. As a feotus, you took nourishment freely from your mother, without her consent. If she did not want to feed you, she would have to starve herself. There's no way she could have borne you without you taking that free lunch, short of an abortion. (If your mom is pro-life, congratulations, a Free Lunch).

    Then you were given all sorts of love - free. Nourishment as a baby - free. The air you breathe is free. So were the nappies on your bare bottomed buttocks. So were the first reading lessons. I could go on and on. In fact, you can see what not getting these things do, when you see the wretched poor children of third world nations. Since you are posting on slashdot, you are one of the privileged few. Don't be a hypocrite! You are here becuase you got many things free, from our society who values children and the future!

    People say "Shakespeare is dead - he can't collect anymore." Bullshit. All copyrighted stuff should go back to the public domain, sooner or later. Why? Beucase of our social contract. Imagine how impoverished you would have to be, if you can't even read the children's fables, Aesop's fables, Grimm Brother's Fairy Tales, etc. How early would you have got to read? Not convinced. Go a few centuries back and look at what the literacy level was. How many books were there? And who are the illiterate? Naturally the poor, who can't get the books to read.

    Consider Micheal Faraday, one of the discoverers of the laws of electricity. Apprenticed to a book binder, he read from the books (for free!) and taught himself enough science to enter the Royal Society. If there is any example of the liberating power of "free books" this is it!

  • Me personally, I'd love to see a /. interview with Hart - I'm sure it would be interesting! (Not that most of the /. interviews here aren't interesting - it's become one of the things I look forward to most!)

  • Exactly Exactly Exactly! The last time Gutenberg was mentioned on slashdot, people said the same thing. We need HTML/PDF/DOC... and so on. The point of Gutenberg, is that these books are built out of the simple building block of ASCII. HTML as a standard may go out the window. PDF's days are numbered, and the PDF's of tomorrow won't look anything like the PDF's of today. DOC... well, What exactly is a DOC? MS Word? Plain ASCII? RTF?
    If these books are put into ASCII, that insures that they will be available tomorrow and the next day.
  • ... a Beowulf cluster of Steve Gutenbergs competing in the synchronized swimming event at the Olympics?
  • That's an excellent idea! Perhaps we could get together and raise some money and exposure for PG as well?
  • >>copyright law is designed to give the knowledge back to the people, after a given amount of time.

    >In some respects, copyright laws is obsolete. It was written at a time when knowledge could not be transmitted or without a physical medium of storage, which had some cost. It didn't matter if you weren't paying an extra 5% for royalties to the author, because the majority of the price was the cost of reproduction and the medium itself. This has changed, and copyright law will have to change to recognize the fact that information can now be transmitted without any wealth being created. If advertising could be irremovably inserted into Project Gutenberg etexts, or if they could be distributed only on a "pay per view" basis, the endeavor would begin to do some good in the world and I'd withdraw my objections.

    You are operating under the assumption that copyright is essentially a publisher's right, like the stationer's rights before the statute of Anne. While this is somewhat true in the U.K. (see the earliest interpretations of the Statute of Anne -- Donaldson, I think?), the U.S. Constitution only protects authors. The only reason publishers have any say at all is because of copyright assignment by the author or the works-for-hire doctrine. In short, the previous poster had a more correct interpretation -- copyright in the United States designed to protect the author.

    Furthermore, your argument about the creation of wealth is flawed. First, (even though so die-hard economists might disagree), there is wealth created through the gutenberg project. This wealth is created in at least three ways:

    1. Ease of access is an economic good. While these texts are already officially in the public domain, making them easier to access enhances their worth. e.g., Lexis-Nexis is a legal search service. While the information is otherwise available, putting it all online and making it searchable earns Lexis big bucks. Besides, who's to say that the Gutenberg etexts couldn't be used as a loss-leader for a business selling specialized reading hardware?
    2. The expansion of the public domain and the encouragement of new authors. Because new authors have greater access to these public domain works, they are more able to use them in fashioning original works. This results in a larger number of workers available.
    3. The creation of a more literate populace. Increasing the availability of these texts makes it more likely that they will be read, resulting in a more literate -- and thus more productive -- populace.

    Second, (despite the propaganda the other way) intellectual property law was *never* designed to guarantee profits to the publisher or even the author. It was designed to provide exclusivity in the marketplace for a limited period of time. After that, it was meant to enter into the public domain permanently. I can say with confidence that copyright law in its current incarnation is in many ways diametrically opposed to the original intent of the founding fathers.

    BTW, IANAL, but I am going to law school...

  • Err... in main point two (Creation of wealth) subpoint one, bullet 2, that should read "new works," not "workers"

    Ah, well...

  • Just as one would expect, Faraday's "work" has since been shown to be utterly fraudulent. He was a con artist, who preyed on the emotionalistic generosity of academic liberals to cheat his way into a fake career as a so-called "scientist". None of his "discoveries" even lasted out his lifetime.

    Hmmm... I distinctly recall studying Faraday's theories last year -- in most ways quite current. (especially his theoretical work on field lines.) While I don't agree with your other points, this is just out-and-out false.

    Did I mention that I'm also an EE?

  • by ..... ( 133478 )
    Books exist because publishers -- businessmen -- publish them.


    Books exist because authors write them.

    Books are distributed because publishers publish them.

    And, evidently, because a guy who likes to eat mayonnaise puts them up on his web site.

    But all the publishers in the world, electronic or not, free or not, wouldn't create a damn bit of wealth without the original creative effort.

  • I'd advise you to pull your head out of the sand and start studying something meaningful.

    So far, I have only seen you tear down other fields of endeavor -- to the English Lit guy, you recommended science or engineering; to me, you recommend . . . something else?

    If you are not a troll -- or even if you are (and one of the most successful ever, judging by the length of this thread)-- define yourself. What is a "real education?"

  • Actually, Project Gutenberg does have a CDROM available. The biggest problem with PG is that Mr. Hart isn't a very good publicist. He admits this freely. It's a great idea, but it needs better support.

  • One the one hand, there are zealots who do not understand Ayn Rand's philosophy, but think they are for it. On the other hand, there are people who do not understand Ayn Rand's philosophy, but think they are against it.

    This situation is understandable, given the incompetent fools (Peikoff and his cronies) now the official rulers of the Objectivist kingdom, and given the foolishness of Rand's own later years.

    Either way. "The fact that a man has no claim on others....does not preclude or prohibit good will among men and does not make it immoral to offer or to accept voluntary, non-sacrificial assistance." -Ayn Rand, in "The Objectivist", June 1966.

    Charity is ethically neutral. If you value literature, would like to see it preserved, and are a benevolent person, it is in your own rational self interest to help Project Gutenberg, if you can and want to. There is no room to argue the point. Even rational, objective people can order their values differently- reason many be objective, but temperament is as subjective as ever.

    Please, all you psuedo-Randites out there, stop your ignorant posting. You damage a great philosopher's reputation. If you would like to belong to a cult, try Catholicism, and leave Objectivism to what few serious thinkers haven't yet abandonded it. And thank you, for reminding me why I usually avoid reading message boards.
  • forced altruism is immoral, and it is incorrect to have altruism as the basis of your morality.

    however, this does not make "altruism"- in the sense of helping others- evil. the frequent denunciations of altruism were directed at ethics systems, not acts of human kindness.
  • "value must always be given for value received."

    this does not preclude charity, as Rand's definition of "value" was not exclusively monetary. romantic relationships, for example, involve exchanged values.

    Rand was a second-rate romance novelist

    romantic (in the true sense) does not equal "romance". I won't bother to defend the merits of her novels, except to mention that it's through the government system of education that I learned of Rand. quite ironic. philosophers ignore her, but literary types do not. that's quite an argument from authority, and unneeded. her novels stand up for themselves. even if you have problems with her philosophy, she has said more for artistic integrity than any other writer I know.

    you're clearly trolling by comparing Objectivism to socialism. Leonard Peikoff, heir of Ayn Rand, is leader of the Objectivist cult. I would like for him and his goombahs to leave Objectivism, which is a philosophical school, and not a fixed canon (usually misinterpreted). there are exiled, saner groups such as David Kelley's [objectivistcenter.org], but they do not control the all important "For more information" cards which fall out of the novels. Ayn Rand made many foolish decisions in her life, and thinking Peikoff somehow worthy was her biggest.

    her philosophy was not reductionist, but unfinished. she never wrote a systematic exposition of it. what she did write was not always on target. but her ideas, being the kernel of the libertarian movement (and much more), were hardly irrelevant.
  • Despite some big storms of controversy, RMS has been somewhat more successful at attracting money to his efforts, mind you...

    The FSF has a higher profile and, well, Unix software (Not Unix, as the case may be) is more "valuable" than 100+ year-old text. Dept of defense donates money so there will be a FREE Ada compiler. Before everyone and his mother had a fast internet connection, people happily paid money for EMACS tapes. What would linux be compiled in if not gcc?

    The Gutenberg project & FSF are similar in nature - the release of FREE information (books, src. code). Except, Gutenberg achieves its results by waiting for the copyright to expire...

  • I don't understand why this even made headlines. Steve Gutenberg hasn't made a film in years. Actually, he hasn't done any serious acting ever. I mean common. He made a bunch of police academy movies and I think he was in cacoon but I can't be sure since there aren't any websites devoted to his filmography. That is how lame this actor is. I guess the guys at slashdot are running out of stories.

  • in a class once. Ya, I'm sure of it. Weren't you the one who took Philosophy 260? No not to learn anything of course, just to find arguments to back up your own self-serving mindset. Where exactly did "Socialism fail"? (And i hope you're not going to point to the Soviet Union.) What does offering literary works for free have to do with socialism? Because it's free? I suppose libraries are a form of socialism too. Thanks for being one of the people that are helping to make this world such a great place for the masses to live in.(Sarcasm implied.) By the way if you are looking for work, I hear that there's still quite a bit of money to be made raping third world countries. Those places are full of parisites I hear.
  • Is that it renders Gutenberg absolutely useless for a vast body of texts. How does one mark up Beowulf, or other Old English texts, without an eth (ð) character? How does one markup Old Norse? French without the cedilla? Central European and Russian character sets present even more problems, and that's before we get to ideographic writing.

    Don't get me wrong - I admire Project Gutenberg and the myriad contributors for their work, but I think ASCII, while possibly a sensible choice when Gutenberg was founded, is flawed in the long run. And SGML or XML DTD that allows use of non-Roman character sets would be a boon to Project Gutenberg and its potential audience.

  • The tendancy to being "personally peculiar," as well as being so strongly opinionated that some people ignore him as "too different" are parallels between Michael Hart and Richard Stallman.

    Add to this that both hold extremely "populist" political positions that contrast sharply both with capitalists and "big government" socialists...

    Despite some big storms of controversy, RMS has been somewhat more successful at attracting money to his efforts, mind you...

    My suspicion is that both have, too often, backed themselves into extreme corners that have forced them apart from the "mainstream" in a manner that has been hurtful to their purposes. They probably don't need to disagree as much as they do...

  • Have you checked out the site _at_all_? Perhaps you should read the instructions on how to make etexts [promo.net] where it goes over in detail how to correctly use a scanner and OCR to create one. Stick your foot in your mouth and start reading before spouting off!
  • by mattdm ( 1931 )
    Once you have the content in a decent markup language (something nice and simple like HTML, perhaps) it can be converted to other nicely-formatted pages. With plain ASCII, you just plain don't have the formatting information -- it's essentially a lossy way of storing books.

    HTML may be replaced by updated standards, but it's not going "out the window". And even if it would, there would be a simple migration path.

    (As a side point -- Unicode will make ASCII obsolete....)


  • I would like them to be flexible and recognize a good thing when they see it.

    As for ascii being a subset of unicode -- yes, of course. And web browsers still can view HTML 1.0.


  • I never said ascii wasn't flexible. I said that Project Gutenberg should be flexible.

    My complaint isn't with ascii -- I'd certainly advocate than any markup language be ascii or unicode based -- but with plain ascii, which loses formatting (both aesthetic and functional) and other important content. It's not sufficient for a project like this.

    As for HTML 1.0 -- it wasn't called that, but that's what it was [w3.org].


  • Somehow, I get the feeling you are. Assuming you're the same "Anonymous Coward" that started this thread, then if you're posting these in earnest then you've done nothing but reveal your own hypocrisy.

    Not exactly. After all, they wouldn't be poor if they were responsible and independent, would they?

    In most cases, you are probably right. But never forget that there are no hard and fast rules where humanity is concerned; the best you can do is find a tendency towards something or other.

    No, the poor deserve to be poor, and they choose to be poor.

    Whoa, hold on there. Read my above statement. I would agree that those who choose to be poor do deserve it. But again, there are those who do not choose it; what of them?

    Mostly it's genetic. I think it would be safe to say that on a scale of 1 to 10, the poor are born at 2 and are driven down to 1 by the welfare state.

    One moment. It would seem to me that you support a free state, where all have an equal opportunity but what they do with it is up to them (which is, more or less, what we have now). And I agree; that is the best way of doung things (indeed, the only way; people seem to have forgotten that we're all individuals, so equal opportunity doesn't necessarily mean equal results). However, this last statement of yours throws that out the window completely. You cannot believe both without being a hypocrite, since the genetics issue kills the idea of "all men are created equal." You speak derisively of several groups (notably the "Klintonistas") with implications that you would tie them to Nazism. Yet your last statement reeks of the very thing you despise.

    The inevitable logic of the welfare state dictates that the poor will eventually be forced to download and read these books, to "improve" them (as if there were anything left to improve after they've been worked over by the Klintonistas).

    Not that I've seen. Frankly, I've seen the exact opposite, which is even worse; little if any real attempt at getting people off of welfare and back into society as functioning, contributing members thereof.

    The basic premise of Liberalism is to do exactly that: "Improve" others against their will, by means of armed force.

    Show me evidence of that and I'll be impressed. I can name as many concervative groups that would do the same (and before you go calling me a liberal, I'm not, as anyone I know can tell you. But I do have a heart).

    I also get the impression you might not be attacking the project, or the ideals of the project, but rather Hart's ideals.

    The two are inextricable. Hart is certainly a deluded psychotic and a dangerous criminal, and his "project" is just what one would expect from such a source.

    While I agree that it's hard to separate Hart's ideals from those of the project (seeing as he defined said ideals, and only has his own to work from), I don't see how he's deluded at all. And certainly not dangerous; name one person he's ever hurt.

    I was trying (successfully) to say that Project Gutenberg is a criminal and subversive organization which must be destroyed at any cost.

    Hasn't looked too successful to me. Of course, it would help if you produced any evidence to support your claims, but you seemingly refuse to do so. Instead you just spout like a volcano.

    It is a statist attempt to upset the natural order established by free competition.

    Hardly. These works are comparatively ancient. There is little if any profit in republishing them. Why, then, give that task to a group that doesn't seek profit anyway? Certainly better than to give it to a business that would lose money by doing so.

    It is a statist attempt to propagandize in favor of an intellectual welfare state.

    Now, correct me if I'm wrong here. The tone of your writings is somewhat reminiscent of Ayn Rand. This, plus the content of your posts, leads me to believe you're an Objectivist, seeing as I've never met an Objectivist who didn't have a style reminiscent of hers (which is understandable, given the Objectivist philosophy on aesthetics). Last I checked, Objectivism viewed the intellect as among the most important things out there, perhaps the only thing which could be called sacred (a word I know you'll flame me for using, but what word has more appropriate connotations?) So clearly, the spread of knowledge is a good thing by your beliefs. Since this knowledge can no longer be profited from, how is Gutenberg bad? You seem to say that money makes right, that a man should be judged by how much he is worth (this being from that line about people who don't want to pay for Shakespeare not being morally equipped to handle it). Even Rand herself didn't believe that.
  • I sit today with the journalist who wrote that story. I take a bite of chicken. He eats some toast. He has been a journalist for ten years. I eat more chicken. He chews. Friends say that he sometimes chews with his mouth open.

    He tells me that he never went to college, but his daddy got him this job. I chew now. He drinks some milk. He has a milk moustache. He tells me he has written about two articles. The rest of the time he is a janitor. He chews again. He puts some jelly on the toast. He takes another bite. I chew. He chews.

    I ask him how long he has been working at the Gazette. He replies, "Three years." Other journalists that have interviewed him say that he chews with his mouth open. He informs me that he interviewed some guy who ate a bunch of sugar and did something about online books. He recounts a story of how much garlic this person eats. He takes a bite of toast. He chews. I chew.

    I ask him if he chews with his mouth open. He says no. I know better, I have ate with him.

    THE END.

  • Instead of purchasing a copy of The Prisoner of Zenda, read it online.
    No! Why waste their bandwidth? Besides, if a book is so generally available that you can get it in print and it's enough for your use, maybe it is not so urgent to get it on the Gutenberg. And what about usability of paper versus screen?
    If it's not, then give a student extra credit for typing it in.
    This reminds me of forced labor.
    No adult child has any inherent natural right to control his father's published writings
    Some writer once complained that a farmer can "transfer the control of his property" to their descendants for _ever_, but his "transfer" will only last for some years. Land is not the same as intellectual but I can see a point.
  • You get better and cheaper with a bound book than a laser printed version.
  • Adobe has recently started promoting their service which lets you "WebBuy" [adobe.com] "ebooks" - a process in which you download encrypted files, and then unlock them with a purchased key.

    They have some free [adobe.com] examples to show you, including The Declaration of Independence of the United States [adobe.com]. What do you have to do to get it? Download about 6 megs of Adobe Acrobat, then download this file. It sends back CPU and hard drive identification to Adobe, and you then get your key. All this to read the Declaration of Independence....

    Long live Project Gutenberg!


  • Gutenbook [gutenbook.org]


  • If any of read you Machiavelli the goverment and comapnies wants to control what you read, listen to, and who speak to. This is very important for control. Individuals now can access information that they never had a chance to access before. The world leaders are getting scared and they want to make sure they control your life remember alot people have a FBI file. I pretty sure I do. Being a first generation american they would want to keep track of me. But remember it is and always has been who has the knowledge that will be in control.

    http://theotherside.com/dvd/ [theotherside.com]
  • I'll say it once, and I'll say it very slowly and clearly: Socialism failed.

    And this has what to do with Project Gutenberg?

    He wants to give away free "works of genius" to parasites.

    Since you know how to use /. I have to assume you're not an utter moron, so you must be posturing for some obscure reason. Maybe you're a shill for the RIAA?

    The whole idea behind copyright laws is to protect an artist's work for a limited time. Got that? For. A. Limited. Time. Read that about five or six times, until it sinks in. Pay special attention to that word, "limited."

    Works are supposed to pass into the public domain after a while. Hart is simply putting such works on the Web for all to see. All legal, all moral, all well within the spirit of copyright law. Now tell me, where does socialism come into the picture?

    Shakespeare didn't revolutionize the Judeo-Christian/Western European literary tradition by sitting around waiting for a handout. He earned his keep fair and square. He worked damned hard.

    He worked damned hard at ripping off the hard work of his contemporaries, you mean. Maybe you want to provide a different example?

    I didn't get the impression, from the article, that Hart is living off of welfare or anything. I'm sure he'd like to see some grant money come his way, but I doubt he'd change his lifestyle much -- he seems comfortable enough. So what the hey is your problem?

  • All I can say is, if Hart doesn't change his diet, he won't live to see 54...! yikes!
  • GMH Rules! But, please, what Project Gutenberg are you using? No Hopkins on the one I use.
  • Gutenberg is a nice thing, yes...but how many of you have considered contributing back to Gutenberg in return for what it's given you?

    Go out to an old bookstore, or Bookfinder [bookfinder.com] and dig up some musty old tomes that were published back before 1923 or so and aren't yet in Project Gutenberg. Original editions, not re-translations or re-issues, so there can be no doubt about their public domain-ness. Check with P.G. to determine their eligibility. Then scan 'em in.

    I have a couple of old translated Arsene Lupin novels by Maurice Leblanc that I intend to scan in when I have the time. God knows they need more; they only have one, The Glass Stopper.

  • SGML would be better. Librarians invented SGML for exactly such purposes (long-term data storage). It allows you to encode all sorts of things, like hyperlinks, proper footnotes, typesetting/formatting information, etc.

    IMHO, I think a lightweight SGML variant would be ideal for PG. From that, you could use freeware tools (like Jade [jclark.com]) to generate TXT, HTML, DVI, PDF files as necessary, with hyperlinks and/or beautiful TeX-like typesetting as the format allows. And the source language would be stable enough to not be completely irrelevant 100+ years down the line. (which, btw, I think will become the case with HTML)
  • I meant to convey the fact that the rich poor gap is widening.

    Of course the gap is widening. So what? If you don't like people being rich to begin with, then please say so. But it's meaningless to say that the richer are getting richer than the poor are getting richer. It conveys no useful information.

    While the country as a whole *is* attaining greater wealth, it is strongly top heavy. 'Free' helps eliminate rich privilage.

    I'm assuming you're talking about the topic at hand, the Gutenberg Project. If so, I fail to see your point. The middle class can go into a bookstore and acquire any of those texts for $4.95. The poor can go into a library and borrow exactly the same works for free. The rich in this case have no priviledges.

    But to the topic of "topheaviness". This is simply untrue. If the largest segment of the population were poor, you would have a point. But that is not the case. The largest segment of the population is middle class. Think of it as a bell curve. There are extrememly few destitute people in the nation, and the filthy rich are just as rare. But in between you have a smooth hump in the curve known as the middle class. There is no disproportionate lump at either end of the curve.
  • If you think the auto industry could have thrived in a nation where 85% of the population couldn't afford to buy cars, take a long cold look at Medeival Europe (or modern Afghanistan) and call me in the morning. The kind of pervasive working-class poverty that Libertarians dream of would come with some problems which, for religious reasons, you are unwilling to recognize.

    Neither Medieval Europe of modern Afghanistan have anything whatsoever to do with freedom or market economies. On one hand you have extreme totalitarianism and on the other near anarchy in a war zone. Of course neither of these groups could afford autos. Hell, they couldn't even build them!

    The fact that you equate those two societies with libertarianism suggests you don't even know what a libertarian even is.

    But if you want to take it on religious faith that all wealth is stolen from the poor and working classes, I won't try to proselytize.
  • You've never bought a book, have you?

    You don't know where to shop, do you? A paperback classic goes for 4.95. The typical paperback goes for one or two dollars more, but there's no royalties to pay for public domain works, so they're less.

    Visit West Virginia, or any old mill town in New England.

    Until two years ago, I lived in a rural county that had the country's highest poverty rate and the highest percentage of welfare recipients. That particular region, not demographic, had a damaged economy. I made no claim that particular regions won't have economic disparities.
  • American capitalism fails in giving freedom by making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

    This is completely false. At best it is merely an example of lying with statistics. A widening gap between the rich and poor does NOT mean that the poor are getting poorer. If the rich get 10% richer and the poor get only 5% richer, guess what? The poor are getting richer!

    Yes, there are some individuals getting poorer. Impossible to avoid that under any economic system. But in the US, there is no demographic or group that is getting poorer.
  • You're talking about individuals, I was talking about demographics. No matter what the economy or political system, there will always be some individuals moving downwards. There's simply no way to avoid it. Unfortunate but true.

    However, by demographics I was not referring to job sectors. I was talking about race, parental economic status, gender, etc. If you want to talk about job sectors getting screwed by the rich, then let's not forget to include the all time poorest profession, the drayman.

    Of course, only the wealthiest 15% of the population would be able to buy the products of those factories

    Have you any realistic notion of economics whatsoever? Businesses want to earn profits and the only way they can do so is to sell their product or service. If a company can sell it's product for 10% less and make a bigger profit (since they will have more customers), they will do so in a heartbeat. Pull out your high school econ textbook and look up marginal costs. I would love to be a businessman in your above scenario, 'cause I would then target my business to the lower 85% that everyone else foolishly ignored.
  • Once you have the content in a decent markup language (something nice and simple like HTML, perhaps) it can be converted to other nicely-formatted pages. With plain ASCII, you just plain don't have the formatting information -- it's essentially a lossy way of storing books.

    Here's a question for you. The Project Gutenberg started in 1971. In which format, for which free, crossplatforms tools existed in 1971 would you like to see the Project Gutenbergs e-texts?

    As a side point -- Unicode will make ASCII obsolete...

    Odd. ASCII used to be a subset of Unicode. Did they change the first 128 characters of Unicode recently? That's quite shocking news.

    -- Abigail

  • SGML would be better. Librarians invented SGML for exactly such purposes (long-term data storage). It allows you to encode all sorts of things, like hyperlinks, proper footnotes, typesetting/formatting information, etc.

    First of all, SGML annotates content and no typesetting or formatting information. It's done so on purpose. Formatting is done with style sheets.

    Having footnotes and such would be a problem for PG. Footnotes are the work of someone else. And hence copyrighted. Which means you cannot put them on PG. (Unless your footnotes themselves would be old enough).

    I think a lightweight SGML variant would be ideal for PG.

    I don't think so. It already takes a lot of work to turn dead trees in error free flat files. Even if a scanner is used, one still needs countless hours of error correcting. Marking up more information means even more work - and since it requires tools, knowledge of the tools, and knowledge of the meta language used to mark up the text, means less people to do the job. More work with less people, just to create things PG hasn't been aiming for the past 30 years doesn't seem like a good deal to me.

    -- Abigail

  • I would like them to be flexible and recognize a good thing when they see it.

    ASCII has been around for quite a while, and is based on letters that have been around for even longer. From the point of PG, that is the good thing. I fail to see why ASCII isn't flexible. No format is supported more than ASCII.

    As for ascii being a subset of unicode -- yes, of course. And web browsers still can view HTML 1.0.

    There never was "HTML 1.0". The Project Gutenberg has been around 3 times as long as web browsers. I fail to see your point - you don't find e-texts of PG with "designed for barfwowser 7.XXX - download now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!". That's a good thing.

    -- Abigail

  • You know, I hate socialism as much as you do, if not more (I've taken economics classes and know why I hate it and why it is a bad idea). But I think that it is rather a strecth to call Hart a socialist.

    Clue: there is naught anti-free market about giving things away for free, as long as it is not coerced by a government or anyone else. If one has the resources and wishes to be a philanthropist then that is one's right. It is also one's right to solicit other's help in such an endeavour.

    Clue: it is hardly the impoverished who benefit (at least immediately) from project Gutenberg. It is scholars and students, lvoers of books and their ilk who do. These are books online--one does tend to need a computer to access them. This is sheer information. Do you oppose the library? At least an argument can be made that the library uses tax dollars when private donors are likely to provide funds and trusts for such a purpose.

    Clue: Hart does not live off of welfare. The 'Kindness of strangers' referred to is donations. Do you believe that the clergy live off of the welfare?

    Clue: the market does not really care much for old books. There is something of a market for their physical artifacts, but not that much of a market for the books themselves. If there were, we might see an eBook archive of old, out-of-print books. Of course, the funny thing would be that since the copyrights have expired someone else could publish them. That's why we have expiring copyrights.

    Project Gutenberg cuts all that sort of middleman nonsense. It lives on the edges of the market, goes where no sane businessman would go (there is no profit to be made charging people for what is free, although oxygen bars belie my point). It provides a valuable service to mankind for free. It asks no tax money. It just asks that we contribute as we see fit. In other words, as we value it. In other words, it asks the market to value it and pay it accordingly.

    Project Gutenberg is a free enterprise. Were you to quell it, you would be no better than a socialist centraliser, ruthlessly manipulating for your won ideological pleasure. You would by no means be an advocate of the free market or of freedom. You would be an authoritarian.

    As an aside, I urge everyone to contribute to the project. Type in a book, donate old computers or just donate some money. If you use the service, help it out.

  • Text in electronic form has never been easy to read on a computer screen. I spend most of my time in front of my computer and you will still not catch me reading a book on it! Software like e-book still does not make it easy. Is there any info on an open source reader with simple/useful features like autoscrolling, light text on dark background, margin notes etc?

    Maybe even a napster like side that lets you maintain your own library and download new books.

    Perhaps even an emacs plugin will do...

    I am sure this would make a nice complement to Project G and make online text more popular. Also, it would make publicising the whole thing easier.

  • You know what's the weirdest thing about project Gutenberg? (The weirdest thing I noticed anyway).

    Take a look at the "standard.new" and "NEWUSER.GUT" files on the FTP sites.

    Check out that justification! The text is
    formatted so that it's left AND right justified,
    with a fixed width font and with no extra spaces. i.e. The text was carefully written in such a way that it just happened to fit perfectly.

    Pretty strange.
  • You're up to your usual high standards. I especially liked the parts where "people who are too poor to buy his books are ipso facto too stoopid and morally defective to deserve to read Shakespeare" and "none of Faraday's fraudulent theories outlasted his lifetime." That last reminds me of some of the crackpot shit that those anti-Kommunists sent the FBI regarding Einstein's "anarchistic," "metaphysical" theories. Just delightful!

    But hey d00d I just gotta tellya like don't f**k with Project Gutenberg, d00d. I'd like take it personal 'cause I just this last weekend scanned volume one of Haldane and Kemp's English translation of Schopenhauer's World as Will and Idea, all 568 pages of it, Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner Publishers, 1909. Only two more volumes, a mere thousand pages to go. And they're really only appendices anyway; volume one is the complete core of World as Will and Idea. I bet you'd get a kick out of Schopenhauer. I've got three short books of his essays on my web page, two of which that haven't been proofread, hint, hint. They're free for the downloading. However, a special charge for downloading applies to Randites: five dollars, or two hundred rubles, per volume. We accept Visa.

    Here's tonight's straight line for Randite Man:

    Why, it so happens that as a contribution to Project Gutenberg, I myself have scanned all of volume one and, thus far, 250 pages of volume two, of Papa Karl's Capital, Charles Kerr Publishers, 1906. (This is actually true, too, but I quit doing Capital for a while because a guy emailed me volunteering to proofread Schopenhauer's magnum opus. I'm tellin ya, proofreading is a lot of work and proofreaders are hard to come by, so if someone volunteers you bet I'm going to take advantage of his offer.) I'm proud to have contributed my time and effort to this splendid project. All people, no matter how oppressed by poverty (OK I'm pushing it there - oppressed by poverty, yet with Internet access!) should have the opportunity to study and learn from this ground-breaking, magnificent work of economic theory.

    Take it away, Randite Man!

    Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

  • I'm the guy who maintains the main FTP sites for Project Gutenberg. Yes, I know Michael Hart. Yes, he really does eat that way. I believe the sandwich in question was served up at the Courier Cafe in Urbana.

    Just a quick request/plea/suggestion: if you find a typo in a Project Gutenberg etext, please email me the fix. Or, fix the text and email me the text! There are definite quality problems with stuff prior to 1994 especially....today, though, the etexts have higher quality standards and go through more proofreading before posting.

    promo.net/pg [promo.net] for the listings; you can link to any of the 2500+ etexts from there. Thanks.

    my email: gbnewby@ils.unc.edu [mailto]

  • I recently corresponded with the guy who runs PG. I wanted to write an application to interface with PG that allowed people to view the texts to their own liking. You can't customize a web browser to the hilt just for one damn page, so this way you could have a centralized place where you went to read these electronic books, it would allow you to highlight passages, email quotes, save bookmarks, all kinds of great shit. The only problem with writing it was that the index files on the FTP sites are total shit for a program to parse. Partial author names, partial title names, some places like "[Reserved for 2001, by Arthur C Clarke]", all kinds of stuff that makes parsing it almost impossible.

    So I wrote him asking if he would make the destailed database or an ascii export of it available on the mirrors and such (the web page features all kinds of complex search features and a great browsing funciton to find certain books with ALL information in FULL, so he's got to have one somehwere). What did he reply with? "Sure, the aim of project guttenberg is to provide etexts to as many individuals as possible?" Hell no! He got pissed off and started saying he thought the website was a better idea (the website is shit, sir, sorry to let you in on it, but you can't have close to the kinds of features I was going to provide) and he would not provide any kind of computer-readable index file in order to prevent such things from happening!

    So much for "Free texts readable by humans and computers alike" and the entire concept behind PG. They tell people they can feel free to convert the collection to HTML if they want and similar things, but I'm guessing that if that was done, PG would speak out against it and get quite pissed off. I wasn't even thinking of changing the format, just giving the user a really nice configurable reader!

  • we can get them to mirror DecSS source code as an electronic text. Or maybe one of us should right a historical account of the whole DecSS affair and include the source code to show exactly what started the whole affair and then have them mirror it. I do think that what project Gutenburg is doing is *very* good for society as a whole. I used several of the texts from project Gutenburg in my college english classes. If I happened to have a few 19th century books laying around the house I would definately scan them in and send them to the project. That's one of the main problems with the project, nothing modern is going in. I wonder if project Gutenburg would accept origianl works from internet authors, on subjects like computer programming or networking. I think that maybe I'll write a begginers book on java programming and submit it to see if they will accept it. Lots of the readers here on slashdot have aquired vast amounts of knowledge and maybe some of them would be willing to share that knowledge with others. (ahemmm useful knowledge not an Idiots guide to being a troll :) ) [please to do not hurt me with your trollish powers you must only use them for the good of mankind.]
  • If there's anybody who really should have a persistent slashdot effect, it should be Project Gutenberg.

    I think the reason that it hasn't gotten the attention of mainstream public is because nobody's figured out how to make money from it, or to make some kind of commercial product from it.

    But, isn't it very much like Open Source? The spirit of Free Software is very much the same as the idea of Free Books (not free as in price, though it is that too). It takes volunteers to contribute to a repository that is freely open to all.

    It's a shame that he's not getting more support.

    I wonder if there's anyway someone can somehow take his effort and offer it as a commercial product. I think some CD-ROM makers have done so, but give some of the proceeds into the project.

  • I think Project Gutenberg is excellent and very useful. I recently used a large number of its texts to collect data on the frequencies of letters and pairs of letters in English (for a cryptanalysis program I am working on). Anyway, I think it would be neat to hear of oddball uses for such a database, that would be very difficult without it (other than just being able to read cool stuff for free).
  • I for one have started reading a book from the Gutenberg collection, and then gone out and bought a copy to finish reading it. (I did it for all the usual printed over digital reasons [i.e. I can take a book anywhere, I can curl up on the couch with it, etc.]) I can't help but wonder how many people have use the project in this "try it before you buy it" way, and how much money has been made because of it.
  • Defintiely a good read and a reminder that long before CDA, RIAA, MPAA, DMCA, and the USPTO, there were other entities all too willing to block access to information.

    Also an example of how such obstacles can be overcome. Sure, CDA/RIAA/MPAA/DMCA/etc. may be bugging certain people now, but as illustrated in this example, that doesn't mean that a reasonable solution won't be reached.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20, 2000 @11:59AM (#1189161)
    The premise on which Michael Hart based Project Gutenberg was: anything that can be entered into a computer can be reproduced indefinitely. . .what Michael termed "Replicator Technology" The concept of Replicator Technology is simple; once a book or any other item (including pictures, sounds, and even 3-D items can be stored in a computer), then any number of copies can and will be available. Everyone in the world, or even not in this world (given satellite transmission) can have a copy of a book that has been entered into a computer.

    The Project Gutenberg Philosophy is to make information, books and other materials available to the general public in forms a vast majority of the computers, programs and people can easily read, use, quote, and search.

    The major point of all this is that years from now Project Gutenberg Etexts are still going to be viable, but program after program, and operating system after operating system are going to go the way of the dinosaur, as will all those pieces of hardware running them.
  • by Ross C. Brackett ( 5878 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @11:49AM (#1189162) Homepage
    For anyone who hasn't read it, there's a much better article about Michael Hart written for Wired a few years ago. He certainly seems like an, um, odd fellow, but I wouldn't mind meeting him sometime.

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.02/esgutenber g.html
  • And more to the point, to whom are we supposed to send Shakespeare's royalties? (and Jane Austin, and Homer, and.....)
  • We as knowledgeable Internet users need to to do two things. First, we need to use Project Gutenberg. Instead of purchasing a copy of The Prisoner of Zenda, read it online. Professors: you can assign out-of-print reading material if a copy is on the site. If it's not, then give a student extra credit for typing it in.

    Second, we who use it need to support it. If there are any worthy causes, Project Gutenberg is one. Who else performs such a massive work without compensation, without help (and oftentimes with a lot of deliberate trouble-making)? This isn't something as material as world hunger (a worthy cause, too, but in a different way); this is our very culture! If every person who uses the Project submitted just one favourite old book, imagine how quickly it would have grown. It would have far more than the 10,000 he wanted by 2,500.

    We also need to fight the ridiculous expansion of copyright. Copyright should last at most to the author's death, or to the emancipation of his children. No adult child has any inherent natural right to control his father's published writings, IMHO. The Disney-sponsored extension is just plain flat-out ridiculous. Whom is it protecting? The authors who are dead long before copyright expires? Their children, who are retired at best? No, it protects large Disneyesque media corporations. They don't need protection. This legislation simply ruins it for the rest of us.

    There are many more out-of-print books than books in print. I would wager, though, that the last century has seen more books published than all previous centuries put together. Relaxing copyright to a saner system would release many works to the world.

  • by dmstevens ( 88699 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @01:53PM (#1189165)

    Amen to this! I've been using Gutenberg for years as a source of Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Gerard Manley Hopkins, etc., to read on my Palm during train trips, meetings (everyone assumes you're doing something useful--try that with a paperback), and long installations.

    Since PG insists on plain ASCII, all you need is a freeware txt-to-Palm converter (MakeDOC) and a freeware text reader (CSpotRun lets you turn the text sideways for easier reading). The reading experience on a sharp LCD screen is much better than on a CRT. I've actually got untouched books on my shelves that I read on my Palm because it was easier.

    Thanks to PG, I still spend plenty of time with my old friends from college--the classics. If it weren't for Hart, they would have drifted away like my "real" friends.

  • by Lucretius ( 110272 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @11:39AM (#1189166)
    I think this article served as a little tidbit into the ideals of project Guttenburg. First off and foremost, there seems to be dispute about the validity of some of the texts, and the amount of errors thererin.

    The choice of books to be included in the project is made by the people involved in the project, Hart has no say in this and will do everything within his power to avoid suggesting a book for you to work on, he serves more as an administrator of the whole project, keeping it working and from falling off the ends of the earth.

    Secondly, the prospective texts are passed through the hands of multiple editors in an attempt to get rid of the most of these errors. The goal is for the text to be as completely free of errors as possible (I seem to recall a reference to 99.9% free of errors in a few places). However, the amount of errors is again left to the editors and the creators of the text, and not upon Hart himself.

    I think the largest issue facing the project, which was not brought up by the article, is the proposed extension of copyrights for 25 more years I beleive it is. If this were the case, then things would not be entering the public domain for a much longer period of time, thus decreasing the amount of material available to the project and preventing some very important works of literature from making their way into the public domain!!!

    OK, I think my little idealistic rant is over now...

  • by elegant7x ( 142766 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @11:36AM (#1189167)
    Its sad the way some people want to stop the flow of information. Its very sad that they were able to buy laws that would allow them to continue. By controlling media for the absurdly long time that is done now (originally, copyrights only lasted 14 years) Big media gets to control not only our there media, but our culture in general. Walt Disney has been dead for decades, and yet his copyrights live on.

    Its disgusting not only that this is allowed to happen, but that those that are at its forefront don't even stop to consider the deleterious effects of there actions.

    Amber Yuan 2k A.D
  • by snmcbride ( 121479 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @11:37AM (#1189168)
    My writing teacher in High School was so worried about all the worlds books being put on computers. She was worried that it could be locked away from people by one authority. I'm fairly certain that it would happen as she predicts. Gutenburg is a good example of that. Where are entities like the EFF, in Hart's case? While they rally to DeCSS's cause, others like this one go hungry. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying DeCSS is without merit. Literature for the masses though, is a tad more important than DVD.
  • I remember when I first heard about Project Gutenberg. It was such a great concept. Unfortunately, I've never had the time to do anything really to help out.

    I wonder if anyone who's made a lot of money on these tech IPOs would be interested in contributing to helping support the free dissemination of literature.

    Many of us sit and rant and rave about copyright and open source, and everything being free, but I think we get too lost in being the tech elite and forget that, well, there's more to technology than just propagating technology. Technology is designed to help people, and perserving and promoting literature is a great way to help people through exposing them to culture.

  • One of the things I think is overlooked about PG is that it's been a great boon to the usefulness of PDAs. I've really enjoyed being able to download Shakespeare's sonnets and read them on the bus/in boring meetings, and beam them between Palms without hassle. Gutenberg's work has made me realize a lot of the value of free, portable, historical works.

    Thanks to Gutenberg, I'm much better educated, literature-wise, and much more convinced of the future potential of handhelds in spreading information and knowledge cheaply and effectively. -- q

  • by dsplat ( 73054 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @11:36AM (#1189171)
    Can we get him for a Slashdot Interview? Project Gutenberg [promo.net] comes up here from time to time. While I don't know whether there is general interest among Slashdot readers, I think Project Gutenberg qualifies as one of the earliest pioneers in free, online distribution.

"An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup." - H.L. Mencken