Michael Hart, Father of Project Gutenberg

Today’s New York Times includes the lengthy obituary: “Michael Hart, a Pioneer of E-Books, Dies at 64.”

The obit tells the story of the fascinating history of Project Gutenberg, which was born when Mr. Hart typed out the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1971 and made it freely downloadable from Arpanet.   From that beginning, the project has grown to include over 30,000 books.

The obituary also discusses various copyright issues and Mr. Hart’s connection with then Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig when Prof. Lessig met for lunch with Mr. Hart to see if he might serve as lead plaintiff in a constitutional challenge to the Copyright Term Extension Act.  Mr. Hart, after pouring sugar on his pizza, told Prof. Lessig that he saw the ligitation as a chance to “challenge the entire social and economic system of the United States.”    According to the obit. Prof. Lessig was looking for someone a little “less visionary” and enlisted Eric Eldred for the cause, which resulted in the 2003 Supreme Court decision Eldred v. Ashcroft.

World eBook Fair

The World eBook Fair runs July 4-August 4, 2011.

The fair’s aim is to provide free public access for a month to some 6.5 million eBooks.

Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive are both contributing organizations.

Each will be presenting a number of items in other media during 2011 — such as music, movies, artwork, and dance choreography.

The available collections include reference books and scientific items, as well as approximately 50,000 music entries (on top of 12,000 that debuted last year).

All are welcome to join the World Public Library for an annual membership of US$8.95 per year.

Members can download from a selection of about 2 million PDF eBooks.

Hat tip to ResourceShelf.com.

See also: World eBook Fair – 6.5 million ebooks available through August 4th

Cross-posted on Law Library Blog.

“Freeliterature” Portal to E-Book Sites

Freeliterature is a valuable portal to e-book sites, including not only collections of items in English — such as Project Gutenberg — but also in other languages from around the globe.

Categories of books/materials covered — see here — include, among other things:

  • Classical Greek & Latin – Medieval
  • Technical and Scientific
  • Audio Books
  • Art
  • Music
  • Research, Education and Scientific Publications

Freeliterature also invites participation — see here — in the proofreading of electronic texts in order to help make them available online.

Hat tip to ResourceShelf.com.

Cross-posted on Law Library Blog.

Copyright Renewal Records

From Inside Google Book Search

“How do you find out whether a book was renewed? You have to check the U.S. Copyright Office records. Records from 1978 onward are online (see http://www.copyright.gov/records) but not downloadable in bulk. The Copyright Office hasn’t digitized their earlier records, but Carnegie Mellon scanned them as part of their Universal Library Project, and the tireless folks at Project Gutenberg and the Distributed Proofreaders painstakingly corrected the OCR.”

“Thanks to the efforts of Google software engineer Jarkko Hietaniemi, we’ve gathered the records from both sources, massaged them a bit for easier parsing, and combined them into a single XML file available for download here.”

[Hat tip to BoingBoing for this news!]