The first part tells you about Project Gutenberg, the longstanding internet initiative to distribute books.
The second part tells you about a project you may wish to dedicate some of your time to... the work of getting books online.
For a long time now (in internet terms!) there has been a resource on the net dedicated to making books available for free. It is Project Gutenberg.
It predates Google. It predates html, if my memory serves me. In the beginning, it provided the text of books. (And it still does.) Today, it also, for selected books, provides the books in audio form. Imagine the value to people learning a language of being able to, for free, read books with their eyes at the same time as they are hearing the book with their ears!
Imagine the good Project Gutenberg does in making books available to places where money for them is scarce
Apart from these lofty considerations, imagine the benefit Project Gutenberg might be to you!!. It is a mere mouse click away.
We are perhaps too used to "free" resources from the internet. Do consider making a contribution to the running costs of the worthy ones. (They make it easy!). Taking is good..... but so is giving.
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With all the furore over the Kindle, etc (ways to spend hundreds of dollars so that you can spend many dollars... to avoid buying paperbacks?... as long as your battery holds up...) you may forget that (many of you) already have a laptop. And you can put Gutenberg e-texts into your laptop, and read them from there. You can use your basic office software, or you can get dedicated software. When I went looking, I settled on the free "Tom's E-Book Reader" (nothing to do with me) from http://www.fellnersoft.at/eTR.htm. It lets you select font, and it remembers where you got to when you last had "the book" open.
Where do the Project Gutenberg files come from?
Many of them are produced by the team of volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders... and you could become a member of the team... without leaving your home, and without any tedious commitments. you can even give it a try without registering at the site!
Besides doing something for the Greater Good, you may find that you have fun along the way.
Here's how it works....
More senior volunteers take care of turning books into images. In essence, they put each book through a scanner.
They then run the images through OCR software. That creates a file which is comparable to what a human would produce by hastily typing the book into a computer by hand.... but the OCR software sometimes mis-reads the text, and the hasty human would make typos. (The OCR equivalent is called a "scanno")
Then the junior members of the Distributed Processing community.. of whom you could be one half an hour from now!.... come into the picture. By means of a very simple, very well done webpage, you fetch a single page from the book into your computer. At the top of the screen you will see what the scanner produced, and at the bottom of your screen you'll see what the OCR software produced. Your job, Jim (or Jane), should you decide to accept it, is to compare the image with the OCR data, and fix any boo-boos.
Why would you find that fun? Because the books being processed are interesting. You get to choose what book (or books) you work on. You do as much (or as little) as you wish. Not only is it a very worthwhile venture, but the people who run it have worked hard to consider the needs and wishes of the volunteers, and made the experience of participation as pleasant as possible.
The only "catch": The one catch is that you need to be the sort of person who enjoys applying diligence and care to a job. There are "rules" to follow. They are very clearly explained, and reference material is always just a click away. This is, after all, a serious enterprise, not just some half-baked lightweight entertainment. Oh... and I suppose I should also apply a health warning. If you have compulsive tendencies... like to have "just one more peanut"... then maybe this project isn't for you. But us compulsives do get a lot of good work done!
Here's a snippet of something I was proofing recently, and found interesting. Of course one person's "interesting" is another's "boring". If you are issued with a page you don't feel like proofing, you just hand it back. If the book you are proofing is boring, there are usually about 20 others to choose from.
The text below came from "An Old Coachman's Chatter", by Edward Corbett. It recalls the days of the Mail Coaches in England, before the trains were running. It starts of with information about going from London to Edinburgh.
A journey to the northern capital from the southern one cost about fourteen pounds for an inside passenger, and about ten for one traveling outside, and it occupied forty hours. The distance may now be performed in nine hours and at a cost of two pounds, or less by Parliamentary train. We have seen the mail bags no heavier than could be carried by a boy riding a pony, but before the railway system commenced they had increased to such an extent that some mail coaches could carry no more, and, in two cases, they required to be subsidized. For some time the "Greyhound," Shrewsbury coach, was paid every Saturday night for two outside places to Birmingham, in consideration of their carrying two mail bags as far as that town on account of the number of newspapers; and when that coach ceased running the Holyhead mail was paid for outside places to enable them to dispense with that number of passengers, and find the extra space required for these bags. The Dover mail also received assistance in the form of an extra coach once a week for the foreign, or what were called the black bags, as they were dressed with tar to render them waterproof. With this before me I cannot help asking myself whether it was not somewhat of a leap in the dark...
So. What are you waiting for? Check out the Distributed Processing site!
If you find that you enjoy the Distributed Proofreaders work, there are opportunities for advancement. Everyone starts as a "P1" proofreader. If you do that for a little while, you are offered the chance to gain promotion, and become a "P2" proofreader. (They re-proof material which has been through one round of proofing already.) If you choose to, you can advance further and become one of the people who format the proofed text, which is a later stage of the book's progress from ink-on-paper to being online.
I hope, if you have the right sort of "picky" personality, that I've made the enterprise sound like something you'd be willing to help? At least visit the site, check out the answers to FAQs, maybe give the proofreading interface a try? (You don't have to register, remember.)
N.B.: The search engine just looks through the web site for the words you enter. It cannot answer "Which program is fastest?"
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