The Sunday Salon: Project Gutenberg

This past week, I started two proofreading gigs–one at my school newspaper and one at Distributed Proofreaders. Distributed Proofreaders is a website where registered volunteers help convert books in the public domain into e-books by proofreading the digitized text. There’s several rounds of proofreading and formatting, and at the end of it all, the book is added to Project Gutenberg.

I’m sure most of you know what Project Gutenberg is, but if you don’t, Project Gutenberg is, quite simply, wonderful. Books that have passed out of copyright into the public domain (in America!) are available for free as e-books on their website in a variety of formats. For instance, I just realized I forgot to buy a copy of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for my theater class, and my college book store is closed on the weekends. But all is well–Project Gutenberg has it in the archives, since it was published in 1879. While I personally haven’t tried it, the various formats Project Gutenberg offers are supported on several e-readers.

Quite simply, if you have a hankering for a classic and an e-reader, go to Project Gutenberg. I’ve checked the Kindle prices for two of the texts available for free at Project Gutenberg–Pride & Prejudice and The Complete Sherlock Holmes–and while they’re quite cheap, they’re not free. And what can really beat free and legal?

I do prefer, I have to admit, real books over reading on my laptop. While I have downloaded Project Gutenberg’s version of Pride and Prejudice, I checked out a copy from my library to read. But it’s nice to know that I have it on my computer, just in case the mood strikes.

You’re not limited to just e-books if you want to take advantage of Project Gutenberg’s archives. Project Gutenberg works with LibriVox, which provides free audiobooks of Project Gutenberg books, read by volunteers. (I fully plan to join as soon as I get my hands on a proper microphone.) So if you don’t like e-books but like audiobooks, you can enjoy everything Project Gutenberg has to offer.

Isn’t the Internet just wonderful sometimes?

In other news, I’ve finally finished off a particularly fun paper about Keats. (This Sunday Salon narrowly missed being about Keats’ pretentious med school days, by the way.) I’m getting towards the end of First Daughter, and am going to dive directly into its sequel, Last Snow, afterward. Why am I bending my reading rules? Well, keep your eyes peeled for an announcement sometime next week about something I’ve never done on this blog before.

I’ve actually got a reading queue, for the first time–after Eric Van Lustbader, I’m going to read Pride & Prejudice, then Napoleon’s Pyramids, and then The Kiss Murder. And on top of it all, I’m making some headway through The Two Towers. Oh, hobbits. It’s ridiculously gorgeous in Georgia right now, although I’m a bit concerned our annual week of spring might be diving into summer a little too early. I got some academic reading done outside yesterday.

What do you think of Project Gutenberg?

12 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Project Gutenberg

  1. I love Project Gutenberg! I discovered it in high school, and my friend tim and I used to go to the library and print out entire books in very small fonts, which we would then read in class. It was great because it didn’t look like a book. Just papers. Ah, fond memories. (I didn’t learn much calculus though.)

  2. I wish I could get into reading on a screen instead of the page; it sounds so much more convenient! But I’m such a purist when it comes to books. I don’t even do audiobooks, let alone e-texts. I need to work on this. 🙂

  3. On the basis of reading multiple reviews of books on the internet I bought 5 science fiction paperbacks in a brick and mortar store spending $40 plus tax. I didn’t LIKE any of them though one was tolerable. Three I never finished and one I only finished because I promised someone I would. It was excruciating. But plenty of people say Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds is great.

    So I figured I might as well read science fiction from Project Gutenberg, at least it is FREE. The first sci-fi book I ever read turned up in PG in 2006, Star Surgeon by Alan E. Nourse. That got me hooked on the genre before Star Trek came on the air. The amount of SF in PG has grown considerably since then. But I think PG does a lot of work on material that is not worth reading. One strange thing they do sometimes is preserve original page numbers. There is a 20 page e-book that starts on page 115 because that is where it began in the original magazine. But since plenty of longer works have no page numbers whatsoever, why do they bother?

    I think if they vetted the material better and didn’t waste time documenting the junk the overall quality would vastly improve. But the problem is deciding what is junk. Maybe they need a panel of at least 3 SF enthusiasts. If all 3 say it’s bad then put it on very low priority. LOL

    Isn’t any of the non-fiction by Isaac Asimov in public domain yet?

    • The thing is, they’re not just digitizing books people are interested in- they’re interested in digital preservation of every book. And hey, if it’s not working for you, hit up the library. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!

      • {{{ they’re interested in digital preservation of every book. }}}

        And that makes sense when they dnot specify the subject of the book?

        They are at 30,000 now. How will it be possible to find stuff when they reach 500,000?

      • Yes? I’m not sure I understand your first question- their only requirement for preservation is that a book be in the public domain in the United States.

        I assume they’ll keep up with the bookshelf system currently in place, and you can always find authors by name.

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