Project Gutenberg taps into crowdfunding

Pop quiz – when was the world’s oldest digital library, Project Gutenberg, launched? I bet very few of you know that it was already back in 1971* when a gentleman called Michael S. Hart digitized the United States Declaration of Independence which became the very first e-text of Project Gutenberg.

Just a number of weeks ago they joined Flattr and have already almost 60 supporters. The project is a verified charity so 100% of your flattrs and donations go to them.

Today Gutenberg e-library contains over 38,000 free ebooks. Some recent additions come from Winston Churchill, Selma Lagerlöf, Plato, Jean-JAcques Rousseau etc. An average of over fifty new e-books are being added each week. These are primarily works of literature from the Western cultural tradition and in English but slowly the number of books in other languages (French, German, Finnish, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese) is growing.

The ebooks are free as for most part their copyright has expired but there are also a number of copyrighted titles, for which the copyright holder has given the project permission for unlimited non-commercial worldwide use.

But why? What purpose do they serve?

Project founder Michael Hart said in 2004:

The mission of Project Gutenberg is simple: ‘To encourage the creation and distribution of ebooks'”

The project slogan is to “break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy”,[14] because its volunteers aim to continue spreading public literacy and appreciation for the literary heritage just as public libraries began to do in the late 19th century.

Me personally – I’m going after the science fiction category, they do have an excellent collection of older collections and masters like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and many-many more.

There’s tons more in Wikipedia about Project Gutenberg history etc but main point – find something good to read (what better to do on a long Easter weekend?) and help the project by flattring them.

* Other events that took place in 1971 – China was admitted into the United Nations, NASDAQ debuted in the US and voting age in the United States was lowered to 18 years, women finally granted a right to vote in Switzerland, US table tennis team visited the People’s Republic of China, also known as the “ping pong diplomacy”.