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قراءة كتاب Project Gutenberg (1971-2008)

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‏اللغة: English
Project Gutenberg (1971-2008)

Project Gutenberg (1971-2008)

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 7

through 1977. So, if a given book published during this period is not on the list, it means the copyright was not renewed, and the book fell into the public domain. In April 2007, Stanford University used this data to create a Copyright Renewal Database, searchable by title, author, copyright date and copyright renewal date.


The bet made by Michael Hart in 1971 succeeded. Project Gutenberg counted 10 books online in August 1989; 100 books in January 1994; 1,000 books in August 1997; 2,000 books in May 1999; 3,000 books in December 2000; 4,000 books in October 2001; 5,000 books in April 2002; 10,000 books in October 2003; 15,000 books in January 2005; 20,000 books in December 2006 and 25,000 books in April 2008.

But Project Gutenberg's results are not only measured in numbers, which can't compete yet with the number of print books in the public domain. The results also include the major influence that the project has had. As the oldest producer of free books on the internet, Project Gutenberg has inspired many other digital libraries, for example Projekt Gutenberg-DE for classic German literature and Projekt Runeberg for classic Nordic (Scandinavian) literature, to name only two, which started respectively in 1992 and 1994.

Project Gutenberg keeps its administrative and financial structure to the bare minimum. Its motto fits into three words: "Less is more". The minimal rules give much space to volunteers and to new ideas. The goal is to ensure its independence from loans and other funding and from ephemeral cultural priorities, to avoid pressure from politicians or economic interests. The aim is also to ensure respect for the volunteers, who can be confident their work will be used not just for decades but for centuries. Volunteers can network through mailing lists, weekly or monthly newsletters, discussion lists, wikis and forums.

Donations are used to buy equipment and supplies, mostly computers and scanners. Founded in 2000, the PGLAF (Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation) has only three part-time employees.

More generally, Michael should be given more credit as the real inventor of the electronic book (eBook). If we consider the eBook in its etymological sense, that is to say a book that has been digitized to be distributed as an electronic file, it is now 37 years old and was born with Project Gutenberg in July 1971. This is a much more comforting paternity than the various commercial launchings in proprietary formats that peppered the early 2000s. There is no reason for the term "eBook" to be the monopoly of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others. The non-commercial eBook is a full eBook, and not a "poor" version, just as non-commercial electronic publishing is a fully-fledged way of publishing, and as valuable as commercial electronic publishing. Project Gutenberg eTexts are now called eBooks, to use the recent terminology in the field.

In July 1971, sending a 5K file to 100 people would have crashed the network of the time. In November 2002, Project Gutenberg could post the 75 files of the Human Genome Project, with files of dozens or hundreds of megabytes, shortly after its initial release in February 2001, because it was public domain. In 2004, a computer hard disk costing US$140 could potentially hold the entire Library of Congress. And we probably are only a few years away from a storage disk capable of holding all the print media of our planet.

What about documents other than text? In September 2003, Project Gutenberg launched Project Gutenberg Audio eBooks. As of December 2006, there are 367 computer-generated audio books and 132 human-read audio books. The number of human-read books should greatly increase over the next few years. There were 412 books in May 2008. As for computer-generated books, they won't be stored in a specific section any more, but "converted" when requested from the existing electronic files in the main collections. Voice-activated requests will be possible, as a useful tool for visually impaired readers.

Launched at the same time, The Sheet Music Subproject is dedicated to digitized music sheet. It also contains a few music recordings. Some still pictures and moving pictures are also available. These new collections should take off in the future.

But digitizing books remains the priority, and there is a big demand, as confirmed by the tens of thousands of books that are downloaded every day. For example, on July 31, 2005, there were 37,532 downloads for the day, 243,808 downloads for the week, and 1,154,765 downloads for the month. On May 6, 2007, there were 89,841 downloads for the day, 697,818 downloads for the week, and 2,995,436 downloads for the month. A few days later, the number of downloads for the month hit the landmark of 3 million downloads. On May 8, 2008, there were 115,138 downloads for the day, 714,323 downloads for the week, and 3,055,327 downloads for the month. This only for transfers from (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), the main book distribution site (which also hosts the website). The Internet Archive is the backup distribution site and provides unlimited disk space for storage and processing.

Project Gutenberg has 40 mirror sites in many countries and is looking for new ones. It also encourages the use of P2P for sharing its books.

The "Top 100" lists the top 100 books and the top 100 authors for the previous day, the last 7 days and the last 30 days.

Project Gutenberg books can also help bridge the "digital divide." They can be read on a computer or a secondhand PDA costing just a few dollars. Solar-powered PDAs offer a good solution in remote regions and developing countries.

Later on, it is hoped machine translation software will be able to convert the books from one to another of 100 languages. In ten years from now, it is possible that machine translation will be judged 99% satisfactory (research is very active on that front, but there is still a lot to do), allowing for the reading of literary classics in a choice of many languages. In 2004, Project Gutenberg was in touch with a European project studying how to combine translation software and human translators, somewhat as OCR software is now combined with the work of proofreaders.

37 years after the beginnings of Project Gutenberg, Michael Hart describes himself as a workaholic who devotes his entire life to his project, because he thinks electronic books will become the "killer ap(plication)" of the computer revolution. He considers himself a pragmatic and farsighted altruist. For years he was regarded as a nut but now he is respected. He wants to change the world through freely-available books that can be used and copied endlessly. Reading and culture for everyone at minimal cost. Project Gutenberg's mission can be stated in eight words: "To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks," by everybody, and by every possible means. While implementing new ideas, new methods and new software.

According to him, there might be 25 million books belonging to public domain in the main regional and national libraries in the world, without counting various editions. If Gutenberg allowed everyone to get print books at little cost, Project Gutenberg could allow everyone to get a library of electronic books at no cost on a cheap device like a USB drive. So far, in April 2008, 25,000 high-quality books were available for free.

Let us give the last word to Michael, whom I asked in August 1998: "What is your best experience with the internet?" His answer was: "The notes I get that tell me people appreciate that I have spent my life putting books, etc., on the internet. Some are quite touching, and can make my whole day." Ten years later, he confirms that his answer