Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg (PG) is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks".  It was founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart and is the oldest digital library.  Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books. The project tries to make these as free as possible, in long-lasting, open formats that can be used on almost any computer. As of March 2014, Project Gutenberg claimed over 45,000 items in its collection.

Wherever possible, the releases are available in plain text, but other formats are included, such as HTMLPDFEPUBMOBI, and Plucker. Most releases are in the English language, but many non-English works are also available. There are multiple affiliated projects that are providing additional content, including regional and language-specific works. Project Gutenberg is also closely affiliated with Distributed Proofreaders, an Internet-based community for proofreading scanned texts.

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

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

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

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

Italian volunteer Pietro Di Miceli developed and administered the first Project Gutenberg website and started the development of the Project online Catalog. In his ten years in this role (1994–2004), the Project web pages won a number of awards, often being featured in "best of the Web" listings, and contributing to the project's popularity.

Project Gutenberg founder, Michael Hart, died on 6 September 2011 at his home at Urbana, Illinois at the age of 64.

from Wikipedia.


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