Saturday, June 17

Books, Books and More Books

(Please excuse any weird formatting; enjoy.)

Free chapter added to saga of e-books that canobe
By David Mehegan, Globe Staff I June 2, 2006

For much of the past decade, the publishing world
has been trying to
figure out how to make money selling books in
electronic form. Now a
private project wants to give e-books away for free.

Project Gutenberg, a 35-year-old nonprofit based in
Urbana, Ill.,
announced yesterday it is putting as many as 300,000
books online, where
they will be available for free download. Called the
World eBook Fair,
the program will last a month - July 4 to Aug. 4 --
and will be repeated annually.

The catalog of available works will include fiction,
nonfiction, and
reference books, mostly those that are no longer
protected by copyright.
"It will include the oldest books in the world,
including every author
you have heard of in your life, other than current
ones," said Michael
Hart, Project Gutenberg's founder. The fair also
will offer classical
music files, both scores and recordings, as well as

About 95 percent of the books are in the public
domain and not subject
to copyright law, Hart said. The copyright holders
of the remaining 5
percent have given permission for use of their
works. Copyright law
generally protects a work for 70 years beyond the
death of its creator.

Roughly 20,000 of the books have been scanned by
thousands of Gutenberg
volunteers -- and are already available at -- but the
majority will be loaned to Gutenberg for the month
by more than 100
e-book libraries, including the World eBook Library,
which normally
charges a fee for temporary access. As many as
100,000 of the 300,000
books will remain available permanently. Gutenberg
plans to offer
500,000 books in next year's fair, 750,000 in 2008,
and 1 million in
2009. Still, even these numbers are a fraction of
the tens of millions
of books that have been published throughout

"Our stuff is all free," Hart said. "We want people
to take these books
and use them, to keep them in their PDAs. Our
mission is to help break
down the walls of ignorance and illiteracy."

Efforts to establish a commercial e-book marketplace
have stumbled.
Attempts to sell hand-held readers failed because
they were clumsy and
delicate, downloadable books were few, and fees were
high. Google
recently announced a plan to make millions of books
searchable online,
but the company has faced opposition from publishers
outraged over
potential copyright infringement. Attempts to reach
publishers and
booksellers last night were unsuccessful.

In the World eBook Fair, the books can be downloaded
and read on almost
any kind of computer - even a cellphone or PDA . The
idea is not merely
to lend or rent access to the book but to give it
away so that it can be
kept in a library, copied, or shared with friends.

Hart said the major flaw with previous attempts to
sell e-books was the
device. "Those readers were dinosaurs before they
were bom," he said.
"This generation grew up on Game Boy. The screen of
a cellphone is fine
for them. The iPod had been out only a week when
someone wrote a program
so you could read our books on it."

Hart, 58, has been the dedicated visionary behind
the project since its
inception in 1971, working out of his basement in
Urbana since
graduating from the University of Illinois. In a
phone interview, he
spoke in evangelistic tones about the social virtue
of the project. "We
want to increase literacy and education from the
bottom up," he said. "I
think of this as a blue-collar project. Our target
is not the erudite
professor of Shakespeare -- it's everybody, as many
people as we can
encourage to read."

Gutenberg volunteers -- who have been typing and
scanning books into
computers for 35 years, well before anyone had heard
of the Internet --
have the passion of Wikipedians. "I have 40,000
people to help," Hart
said. "There are no universities or corporations
involved, just a lot of
people in attics banging on their computers. We have
one workaholic
insomniac who has scanned 2,500 to 3,000 books by
himself. He buys

1 of 2 6/2/2006 6:26 AM
Free chapter added to saga of e-books - The Boston


Mem, scans them, and proofreads them."

Though Hart is the project's conceptual force, the
unpaid CEO of Project
Gutenberg is Gregory Newby, acting chief scientist
of the Arctic Area
Supercomputing Center at the University of Alaska in
Fairbanks. While
more low-key than Hart on the phone, he was no less
fired with

"As we see it, if e-books are to succeed, readers
have to be allowed to
do everything they can do with a real book," Newby
said. "If you use
Google Book Search, you can search text, but after a
few pages you can't
read any more. If you try to use it like a book, you
encounter a lot of

Newby said he sees free e-books as the way of the
future for classic

"It breaks my heart to go into Barnes & Noble and
find Jane Austen for
sale in a trade format," he said. "Where does that
money go? It's close
to profiteering. No author is getting any money for
it. I feel sorry for
schools, where kids are now reading Canterbury Tales
or Huckleberry
Finn, and the schools are spending millions of
dollars from their
budgets to buy the books. We're giving the stuff
away for free."

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