[gmonthly] New Project Gutenberg Newsletter Format
Michael S. Hart
hart at pobox.com
Thu Nov 5 10:04:09 PST 2009
New Project Gutenberg Newsletter Format
Project Gutenberg Prose Newsletter
November 5th, 2009
Please allow me to introduce our new Newsletter Editor, Andrea Kobeszko:
Andrea Crisp <andreamcrisp at yahoo.com>
and also to introduce our new Newsletter format, which, as requested is
going to be shorter due to being bi-weekly, the 5th and 21st of months.
The 5th will be dedicated mostly to articles, the 21st to statistics.
Please send replies directly to both Andrea and hart at pglaf.org.
Now for the new Newsletter.
"Through literacy you can begin to see the universe."
In this Issue:
-An interview with Michael Hart
-Libraries check out the eBook - by Andrea Kobeszko
-The Net has gone mobile - Guest writer Michael Hart shares his thoughts
-What does the future hold? - by Andrea Kobeszko
-Zoe Blade's new Gutenberg site needs volunteers
-More calls for volunteers
-eBook News Bytes
-What's new at PG?
AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL HART
-Andrea Kobeskzo & Michael Hart
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Michael Hart, former editor and founder of Project
Gutenberg. In our interview, Michael discusses the future of PG, and looks back on how it has
evolved through changing times.
-So why are you passing the editor torch?
This isn't the first time. It's mostly to get PG used to not depending on
me so much. I have tried as hard as I dare, not to be a central figure by
voicing my own opinions other than to balance others. I don't really mind
doing the Newsletter, but I like to see more other points of view, styles,
perspectives, interest, etc.
-Project Gutenberg has had a long and tumultuous road. How do you feel the
face of PG has changed or evolved through the years?
Believe it or not, I never thought of it as tumultuous. Yes, there were a
few years of hard times, but that's my life's story, but since I never let
us get addicted to money it never made a difference when there wasn't any.
How has PG evolved?
Well, from 1971 to 1988-89 no one paid any attention so it was just me with
tilting at windmills, but I knew eBooks and eLibraries should be two of the
great wonders of an entirely new world, so I was never tempted to give up--
never. I just had to wait for the world to catch up.
Believe it or not people were still saying eBooks were never going to make
it just a few years ago. Look for a quote in the Wall St. Journal: "Ebooks
are never going to make it." Before that the NY Times: look for: "twitchy"
screen. However now that it's obvious they are moving eBooks on their own,
but I can't tell how serious they are. They may just be following the rule
of simple reporting: "Follow The Money." If eBooks fall flat will they all
just move on and pretend there was never any interest?
The first goal of PG was just to prove eBooks feasible. My own estimations
were that it would take about 10,000, and that seems to have proved correct
as Google called me in to advise them ASAP after we hit 10,000, and we went
to do just that on December 14, 2003: and they announced they had invented
eBooks and eLibraries December 14, 2004. However, they did the opposite, or
rather exact opposite of what I said they should do and look what happened.
Most of the big legal fray is because they were more money oriented, and as
such may have intentionally played the copyright cards that got them in the
big legal hassles. If they had started out by emphasizing the public domain
it probably would have worked out a lot better for them in the press as the
good will they would have built up would have gone a long way.
Personally, I am OK with nearly any eBook format that is compact and search
-You've achieved a lot toward the cause of digitizing public works. Do you
feel that one achievement stands out above the rest?
One thing was just keeping such a vastly different bunch of diverse persons
working more or less together for so long. . . . This was pretty much that
first example of what is now so popular, international virtual cooperation.
One of my personal favorites was doing our 100th eBook: The Complete Works
of Shakespeare. . . . I will probably always remember that all nighter, as
we finished up months of very intense work to do it on time.
Another favorite was doing our own translation of Siddhartha, then fighting
off Hermann Hesse's copyright lawyers!!!
-Where do you see Project Gutenberg in ten years? In twenty?
By 2020 we will be buying petabyte drives, not terabytes.
We'll have enough space to hold a billion eBooks of a million characters.
Yes, they will pass more laws against it. In fact we are working
on publicizing the next one already. The biggest tragedy was Larry Lessig at
The Supreme Court. Look that one up, find out who he represented before Eldred.
By 2030 a billion eBooks. . . .here is how it would/could/should happen:
10 million public domain eBooks free on the Net. . .that's 40% of them.
[Just ask any information professional. . .there are ~25 million]
100 languages. . .that's 40% of those with over a million speakers.
[Just ask any languages professional]
10 million eBooks translated into 100 different languages equals:
ONE BILLION eBOOKS.
Common people will be able to buy a petabyte drive to put it on in 2020,
just as we now buy terabyte drives that hold a million eBooks.
The laws will be tested as it becomes more and more obvious that there is no
longer any copyright expiration. . .ever. . .permanent copyright!
It will cost more than Iraq, more than Wall St. Each 20 years of copyright
extension removes a million public domain books, not to mention newspapers,
magazines, music, movies, etc., etc., etc. If you count a lifetime of access
to one of those million books worth $.01, then think how much it costs 300
million people to lose a million books each, as public domain, for their
The powers that be don't want a very literate well educated public. Did you
ever watch Roots? Remember the slave who went to Harvard Law School??
I'm afraid that the following catch phrase will take on ever more meaning:
"The Information Age: For Whom? Only Those Who Can Pay For It?"
The goal of Project Gutenberg has always been to create "An Information Age"
not as something on the order of "The Digital Divide," but something greater
in terms of bringing literacy and education to the masses free of all charge
and in a way the vast majority can access instantly.
To this end my current goals are ever increasing cellphone accessibility and
translation into more languages. WARNING: Get a phone with Wi-Fi or else the
cost factor will enter into the equation, and use free Wi-Fi, of course.
There are already ~4.5 billion active cellphones, with about 1.2 billion new
ones being sold every year. Soon nearly everyone who wants one will have it
and more and more of them will be suitable for eBooks. . .just go to bottoms
of the pages when you locate books at http://www.gutenber.org and you should
see the last sections is all eBook formats. The last is the newest and it's
quite a hit: try QiOO and let me know how you like it. Don't forget to try
the white on black reading feature, easy on the eyes.
LIBRARIES CHECK OUT THE EBOOK
By: Andrea Kobeszko
Across the U.S., thousands of libraries are embracing eBooks. No longer the
familiar home of tomes and periodicals only, these foundations are now using
new technology for more than just computerizing their catalogues. Libraries,
like so many other businesses of the book, are eager to attract the digitally
savvy new generation. This downloadable wave has been a gradual transition
for the library, and the books of yesterday are not yet extinct. The New York
Public library currently offers over 17,000 eBook titles, just a fraction of
their 800,000 circulating print titles. Comparing these numbers, it's obvious
that eBook acquisitions still represent a small percentage of their budget.
[But this budgetary expense will never need another copy. mh]
Why the seeming reticence to stock up on eBooks? It's not only because the
library still clings to the spine (pardon the pun) of its institution, which
lies in the not so modern, good old fashioned pages of yester-year. The road
to eBook downloads, as history has proven (i.e. Google) is often a bumpy one.
One obstacle libraries face is the inability to keep up with new devices now
dominating the industry. Although most libraries offer eBooks that are
compatible with computers, Sony Reader and a handful of other digital
devices, many of their downloadable offerings cannot be read on Amazon's
Kindle or the Apple's iphone, both very popular e-readers. Another issue
slowing down eBook acquisitions for libraries is the publishers themselves.
Many publishers are thus far loath to permit eBook versions of their print
copies to be allowed in libraries, due to concerns it will decrease sales of
their print editions. This decision comes despite the fact that checking out
a downloadable eBook greatly mirrors a checkout of a print copy. Instead of
physically walking out of a library with book copy in hand, all is done at
home, or anywhere else, with a digital device. The differences, in the
instance of library patronage, seem more academic than financial.
Yet even in the wake of these problems, eBook circulation is expanding at an
amazing rate. eBook checkouts have increased to more than one million in
2009, up from 600,000 in 2007, according to OverDrive. eBooks are quickly
proving an unstoppable force, and opening the floodgates have given libraries
the chance to increase readership and cater to a new age of information
seekers. Downloading a book in the comfort of home is no longer just a
concept for most. It's a daily reality. For libraries, it is still a
relatively new venture, riddled with many obstacles, but even more
THE NET HAS GONE MOBILE
by Michael S. Hart
Inventor of eBooks
Those on the leading edge witnessed a watershed breakthrough milestone
this week as the first reports came in indicating that the greater new
mobile access to the Internet. . .great. . .greater. . .greatest.
The most obvious bell they heard ringing was the sound of iPhone apps,
with a first time ever report that there are now more eBooks apps than
game apps for the iPhone and related hardware.
This only a half year after Steve Jobs, one of my heroes, said that it
was not in Apple's interest to support eBooks because no one reads.
"The Time's They Are A'Changin'."
With ~4.5 billion active cell/mobile phones in the world plus the fact
that laptop computer sales surpassed desktop computer sales years ago,
it should have been obvious that the majority of Internet access would
be from mobile devices. . .right?
The pundits seem to have missed this one. Sometimes even Steve Jobs.
People are reading eBooks, and doing everything else on the Net from a
majority of devices that are now mobile.
If you have a web site and haven't yet figured out that you need to do
a mobile version of that website, you are probably losing traffic.
1.2 billion cell/mobile phones were sold in the last four quarters and
that was even in the middle of this huge recession.
Netbooks have taken off as the next big thing.
University library employees tell me that every other student there is
on a laptop computer. . .50%, in a building filled with books and that
so much traffic is going through that it slows the huge bandwidth of a
major university location down to slower that what you get at home.
The research center where our weekly Geek Lunches take place recently,
very recently, upgrade their wifi so I got 2 megabytes per second, and
it took only a couple weeks before everyone else realized this and set
up their wifi connections to the point where it is a quarter as fast.
Let's face it. . .mobile computing has taken over the world while most
of us weren't paying enough attention to notice.
What Are The Results?
The first result is that the major sites have had to address a devices
rush that makes The Gold Rush and rush hour look like a standstill.
Believe it or not there are already sites that are prepared to receive
people connecting from over ONE THOUSAND DIFFERENT MOBILE DEVICES!
Because these people want the traffic.
As many of you know, I have been pushing cellphone/mobile eBooks for a
number of years and I test more phones on http://www.gutenberg.org, at
Because it is obvious that we are going to get more eBook readers from
cell/mobile phones than from computers.
If we do not present a site that looks and acts decent to their phone,
such people will simply head off to the next eBook site, lost forever,
or close enough to forever, in a world moving so quickly.
Therefore, I am asking YOU to test how YOUR PHONE works on our site in
the near future and to write me about how it works, how it will better
work in YOUR OPINION if we make certain adjustments, etc. This is BIG
in terms of the fact that the site may look and act differently to the
device YOU use than any other, and even acts totally differently via a
different piece of browsing software on the very same hardware. Thus,
I suggest/ask that you try various browsers, as well.
In the last 24 hours I tried two different browsers on the same phone,
and the one that came with the phone made Project Gutenberg Home Pages
look totally empty until you scrolled down countless times, while that
one we downloaded and installed ourselves worked just dandy.
Because each device sends a line to the web site called a "User Agent"
to tell the site what kind of device it is and how to talk to it, only
some send such a poor set of instructions that we have to rewrite some
or all of the page just for that one single device.
That's the project I have set out for Project Gutenberg right now.
Given that there are over ONE THOUSAND such devices, we need help.
WILL YOU PLEASE HELP US GIVE YOU EBOOKS IN A BETTER WAY???
Michael S. Hart
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
A commentary by: Andrea Kobeszko
Never was it so apparent to me how drastically our culture has changed then on
one early afternoon at my local hair salon. I had arrived early, sat and
immediately scanned the table for the most topical magazine. I found one,
opened it and glanced fleetingly at my seatmates. There were four.
One talked on her cell-phone, one text-messaged on her cell-phone, one stared
off into space and the last well-kept lady tapped furiously on her blackberry,
then stared at it as if she had discovered a long lost Rosetta stone.
It dawned on me then how much had changed. I flashed back to another era,
little more than a decade prior, when I would sit at the salon and sift
through magazines. The women around me did likewise, back then. We had
flipped pages in solidarity, making the most of our time in limbo by perusing
whatever was available, be it recent news or even, for some, simple
entertaining gossip. But that was last decade, and the years leading up to
this one had brought a steady decline in my witness of people casually
perusing at the salon, in my physician's waiting room, at the line in the
market, or even in the bookstores I frequented. My generation, hedging
insidiously over middle-age, had witnessed perhaps most closely the dawning of
the digital takeover. We had found ourselves immersed in new technologies we
could enjoy and grasp for the most part, although our children probably
understood it better. So much speed and convenience and entertainment,
but what of the aftermath? Reading and writing skills continue to decline in
he United States. Could this new era come at the cost of literacy? Books may
not be dead. They're just gathering dust on library shelves. Alarmists would
claim that our society is crumbling. Perhaps this is not the case, but what
does the future hold when leading universities begin clearing out books to
make room for computer workstations? Times have changed, irrevocably, inevitably.
The cold, hard truth is that the future lies less in the written page,
and more on the screens of computer monitors and handheld digital devices.
I will play the role of the idealist, and say that this evolution of
technology has paved the way for an evolution of literacy, or in simpler
terms, an evolution of the genre of literature. Can a conduit designed to
bring the printed page to a computer screen, or even a cell phone, become
literature's saving grace? Our children can still learn of Shakespeare,
and still be enriched by Jules Verne, if in a way vastly different then we as
children discovered them. In light of this, the future looks bright indeed.
Literacy will not go the way of the dinosaur. Classic works of literature
can, and have, taken a contemporary form, in an era of technology capable of
delivering the wonderful stuff of books to nearly anyone on the globe in the
blink of an eye, or the push of a button.
ZOE BLADE'S PROJECT NEEDS VOLUNTEERS
Hi! My name is Zoe Blade and I'm working on a project to format Gutenberg's eBooks.
By taking Gutenberg's e-books, applying Wikipedia-style formatting to them, then
saving them on this new website, we'll make it possible for computers to
automatically convert these eBooks into a variety of other formats. This
should make them much easier for the general public to find and read.
I'd be very grateful if anyone would join me in copying existing Gutenberg
eBooks into this new site.
The site's address is: http://pg.writerpilot.com/
There's step-by-step documentation on the site. All you will need is an account,
which I'll be happy to set up for you.
Please let me know if you'd like to help out with this new project, and I'll
set up your account right away. You can e-mail me at:
zoe at bytenoise.co.uk
Thank you very much,
CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS
In addition to Zoe Blade's project, PG is looking for volunteers in a number of fields.
If you're interested in submitting an article for our newsletter, or would
like to donate your time in some other way, please contact editor at pg-news.org.
EBOOK NEWS BYTES:
The latest eBook news tidbits. Click the links to find out more!
The Google Books saga continues:
Judge requests Google, authors and publishers to submit a negotiated settlement by November 9th.
Read the article for more details:
Barnes & Noble launches eReader: The Nook.
[Well, almost. I go every week to see it, but they've never had one yet.]
It's a lot like the Kindle, but with a touchscreen. Read the article here:
iphone makes its presence known:
See how it's stacking up against tough competitors like Kindle,
and how it's impacted Nintendo DS!
Looking for the latest news and stats from Project Gutenberg?
You;ll find them in our next newsletter, scheduled for publication on November 21st.
More information about the gmonthly