BRIDGET WHELAN writer

Muse, News and Views

Safari Saturday: searching the web for writers and readers — a free library for the world

Safari FridayMany of you will already know about and use Project Gutenberg, but some things can’t be mentioned too often and this is one of them.
History
It began on 4th July 1971 which I suppose makes Project Gutenberg the Stonehenge of the Internet – only this ancient edifice is working, breathing and expanding every day. 1971 was the year Alan Shepherd played golf on the moon and Idi Amin seized power in Uganda. Britain moved from pounds shillings and pence to the decimal system, Papa Doc died in Haiti and Jim Morrison of The Doors died in Paris. It was also when computers took up an entire room and – in Britain anyway – all typewriters were manual. Oh, and I went out on my very first date. Can’t remember much about the boyfriend but I do know that we saw a Goldie Hawn film.
AND a 24 year old student called Michael Hart at the University of Illinois was allowed access to a mainframe computer in the Materials Research Lab. In fact he was allowed so much access he could contemplate a big project. He decided to acknowledge this generous gift by making the 10,000 most read (and out of copyright) books available to the world electronically. The very first document was the American Declaration of Independence
He was thinking about ebooks before there were ebooks. He was thinking about free ebooks before there were ebooks. Or, put it another way, he invented ebooks. By the way, the computer Michael Hart was using just happened to be one of the 15 computers that eventually became the internet.

Today Project Gutenberg offers over 42,000 free ebooks and another 100,00+ free ebooks are available through partner associations.
The top 10 books downloaded yesterday were:

  1. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1454)

  2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1143)

  3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1024)

  4. Beowulf (1009)

  5. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (898)

  6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (781)

  7. The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (755)

  8. Grimms’ Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm (740)

  9. The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana by Vatsyayana (616)

  10. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (614)

About 50 new books are added every week and the Project depends on a worldwide team of volunteers. For example, it is possible to lend a hand by proofreading a page at a time. It means that many volunteers can work on the same book and that significantly speeds up the creation process. Project Gutenberg is a gold mine, a treasure, an antidote to grim stories about man’s inhumanity to man.

Safari = Swahili for long journey.I am on the look out for anything accessible from a keyboard that educates, entertains, intrigues, raises a smile. Anything that helps a reader get through the day or a writer the next draft. Let me know if you write a website that you’d like featured or discover something that really should be shared.

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