Project Gutenberg Founder on Digitization, ebooks and the OCA Launch

In my story today about the new Open Content Alliance and in my story last December about Google Library, I make mention of
Project Gutenberg, this book digitization project that creates “ebooks” has been going strong for almost 35 years (that’s like a millennium in online info time). Here are some new stats and links about PG courtesy of Michael Hart.

Needless to say, Project Gutenberg’s founder, Michael Hart, is a pioneer, if not THE pioneer when it comes to ebooks. He has lots to say on the topic. Below is an email, a commentary really, about the Online Content Alliance that he shared with me via email and allowed us the chance to reprint. Questions or comments can be sent to Michael at: [email protected].

Yet another consortium of multi-billion dollar institutions has thrown its hat into the eBook/eLibrary ring today, just 9 months before the 35th Anniversary of Project Gutenberg’s
placement on the Internet of the first eLibrary element, on July 4th, 1971.

Last December 14th Google used a multi-million dollar blitz of television, radio and print media to announce the Google Print revolution: “Today is the day the world changes,” but so far it has been difficult to get even a handful of books from their project, some 10 months later.

I am wondering of the news media will give the same kind of coverage to a second such announcement, which will also put up an alliance of an Internet search engine giant with some multi-billion dollar libraries. I will be watching all the news programs tonight in eager anticipation, as I was doing last December, but I fear that “once burned/twice cautious” might take some of the wind out of their sails/sales.

However, this effort has one huge advantage: “The Internet Archive,” run by my friend Brewster Kahle. Brewster is one person who has a proven ability to put an enormous resource on the Internet for the whole wide world to use.

This difference is such that I am willing to bet that Yahoo! gets off to a better start in the next 10 months than did a rather completely false start by Google.

Of course, the real test will be to see how long it takes a project such as this to reach a million eBooks, since there are already well over 100,000 eBooks already available free for the taking on various Internet sites, perhaps 50,000 of them from the various Project Gutenberg sites.

Here’s a hope that a few years from now anyone can have the advantage of a million book home library, and in even a few years more to ten million books sitting on one inch of your own bookshelf next to your computer.

Michael S. Hart
Project Gutenberg

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