Project Gutenberg
[ Issue 8 ]

Project Gutenberg fascinates Emily Bronto

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Project Gutenberg

In Issue 8's Web Line Tony Rogers asks: "What is the purpose of Project Gutenberg, and what is its content?"

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Web Line — Tony Rogers


A couple of times in Web Line I have referred in passing to Project Gutenberg. Ensuing readers’ comments have prompted a closer look.

Begun in 1971, the Project Gutenberg Electronic Public Library’s ongoing purpose is

. . . to make information, books and other materials available . . . in forms a vast majority of the computers, programs and people can easily read, use, quote, and search.

Lack of space permits me to list only a tiny fraction of the texts in the database (most in English):

Cicero: Orations (Selected) [Latin]
Descartes: Discourse on Method
Hugo: Les Misérables
Lincoln: Gettysberg Address
Paterson: Man from Snowy River
Shakespeare: Complete Works
Sophocles: Oedipus Trilogy

In addition to Project Gutenberg, several further sources of literature in electronic form exist on the Net. A significant one is Project Bartleby at Columbia University. A couple of others are here and here.

All well and good, but for many people important questions remain. What’s the use of having such literature on your PC? Who’d read Paradise Lost from a screen, when they could curl up with it in an armchair? Who wants to print out reams of loose-leaf paper containing the full Sons and Lovers?

Here is part of P. G.’s answer:

We want people to be able to look up quotations they heard in conversation, movies, music, other books, easily with a library containing all these quotations . . . You will be easily able to search an entire library, without any program more sophisticated than a plain search program . . . These . . . files are so plain that you can do a search on them without even using an intermediate search program . . .

In other words, the aim is to provide the world’s literature, not to be read from cover to cover but for research purposes, taking advantage of the computer’s power.

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