The eBook is 40 (1971-2011)
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The eBook is 40 (1971-2011), by Marie Lebert
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Title: The eBook is 40 (1971-2011)
Author: Marie Lebert
Release Date: August 6, 2011 [EBook #36985]
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE EBOOK IS 40 (1971-2011) ***
Produced by Al Haines
THE EBOOK IS 40 (1971-2011)
Project Gutenberg News, 2011
The ebook (electronic book) is 40 years old. After humble beginnings,it is firmly standing alongside the print book. We now read ebooks onour computers, PDAs, mobile phones, smartphones and ebook readers.
“The ebook is 40” is a chronology in 44 episodes from 1971 to 2011.Unless specified otherwise, the quotes are excerpts from the NEFInterviews <www.etudes-francaises.net/entretiens/>, University ofToronto, and the interviews that followed as a complement. Many thanksto all those who are quoted here, for their time and their friendship.
Part of this book was published as a series of articles in ProjectGutenberg News <www.gutenbergnews.org> in July 2011, to celebrate the40th anniversary of Project Gutenberg on 4 July 2011.
This book marks the very end of a 12-year research project, with 100participants worldwide.
Marie Lebert is a researcher and journalist specializing in technologyfor books and languages. Her books are freely available in ProjectGutenberg <www.gutenberg.org>, in various formats for any electronicdevice.
Copyright © 2011 Marie Lebert
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1971 > Project Gutenberg, a visionary project1974 > The internet “took off”1990 > The invention of the web1991 > From ASCII to Unicode1992 > Homes for electronic texts1993 > The Online Books Page1993 > PDF, from past to present1994 > The internet as a marketing tool1995 > The print press went online1995 > Amazon, a pioneer in cybercommerce1996 > The Internet Archive, for future generations1996 > Libraries launched websites1996 > Towards a digital knowledge1996 > The @folio project, a mobile device for texts1997 > Multimedia convergence1997 > A portal for European national libraries1997 > E Ink, an electronic ink technology1998 > The Electronic Beowulf Project1998 > Web-extended commercial books1998 > A more restrictive copyright law1998 > The first ebook readers1999 > Librarians in cyberspace1999 > The Ulysses Bookstore on the web1999 > The internet as a novel character2000 > Encyclopedias and dictionaries2000 > The web portal yourDictionary.com2000 > A standard format for ebooks2000 > Experiments by best-selling authors2000 > Cotres.net, works of digital literature2000 > The Gutenberg Bible online2001 > Broadband became the norm2001 > Wikipedia, a collaborative encyclopedia2001 > The Creative Commons license2003 > Handicapzéro, the internet for everyone2003 > The Public Library of Science2004 > The web 2.0, community and sharing2005 > From PDAs to smartphones2005 > From Google Print to Google Books2005 > The Open Content Alliance, a universal library2006 > The union catalog WorldCat on the web2007 > The Encyclopedia of Life, a global effort2007 > The future of ebooks seen from France2010 > From the Librié to the iPad2011 > The ebook in ten points
1971 > PROJECT GUTENBERG, A VISIONARY PROJECT
[Summary]The first ebook was available in July 1971, as eText #1 of ProjectGutenberg, a visionary project launched by Michael Hart to create freeelectronic versions of literary works and disseminate them worldwide.In the 16th century, Gutenberg allowed anyone to have print books for asmall cost. In the 21st century, Project Gutenberg would allow anyoneto have a digital library at no cost. First considered as totallyunrealistic, the project got its first boost with the invention of theweb in 1990, which made it easier to distribute ebooks and recruitvolunteers, and its second boost with the creation of DistributedProofreaders in 2000, to share the proofreading of ebooks betweenthousands of volunteers. In 2011, for its 40th anniversary, ProjectGutenberg offered 36,000 ebooks being downloaded by the tens ofthousands every day, with websites in the United States, in Australia,in Europe, and in Canada, and 40 mirror websites worldwide.
The first ebook was available in July 1971, as eText #1 of ProjectGutenberg, a visionary project launched by Michael Hart to create freeelectronic versions of literary works and disseminate them worldwide.
In the 16th century, Gutenberg allowed anyone to have print books for asmall cost. In the 21st century, Project Gutenberg would allow anyoneto have a digital library at no cost.
As recalled by Michael Hart in January 2009 in an email interview: "OnJuly 4, 1971, while still a freshman at the University of Illinois(UI), I decided to spend the night at the Xerox Sigma V mainframe atthe UI Materials Research Lab, rather than walk miles home in thesummer heat, only to come back hours later to start another day ofschool. I stopped on the way to do a little grocery shopping to getthrough the night, and day, and along with the groceries they put inthe faux parchment copy of 'The U.S. Declaration of Independence' thatbecame quite literally the cornerstone of Project Gutenberg. Thatnight, as it turned out, I received my first computer account — I hadbeen hitchhiking on my brother's best friend's name, who ran thecomputer on the night shift. When I got a first look at the hugeamount of computer money I was given, I decided I had to do somethingextremely worthwhile to do justice to what I had been given. (…) As Iemptied out groceries, the faux parchment ‘Declaration of Independence’fell out, and the light literally went on over my head like in thecartoons and comics… I knew what the future of computing, and theinternet, was going to be… 'The Information Age.' The rest, as theysay, is history."
Michael typed in the “U.S. Declaration of Independence” in upper case,because there was no lower case yet. He mentioned where the 5 K filewas stored to the 100 users of the embryonic internet of the time,though without a hypertext link, because the web was still 20 yearsahead. It was downloaded by six users.
Michael decided to search the books from public domain available inlibraries, digitize these books and store their electronic versions.Project Gutenberg's mission would be the following: to put ateveryone's disposal, in electronic versions, as many literary worksfrom public domain as possible for free.
First considered as totally unrealistic, the project got its firstboost with the invention of the web in 1990, which made it easier todistribute ebooks and recruit volunteers.
Years later, in August 1998, Michael wrote in an email interview: "Weconsider etext to be a new medium, with no real relationship to paper,other than presenting the same material, but I don't see how paper canpossibly compete once people each find their own comfortable way toetexts, especially in schools."
A book became a continuous text file instead of a set of pages, usingthe low set of ASCII, called Plain Vanilla ASCII, with caps for theterms in italic, bold or underlined of the print version, for it to beread on any hardware and software. As a text file, a book would beeasily copied, indexed, searched, analyzed and compared with otherbooks.
# Distributed Proofreaders
The project got its second boost with the creation of DistributedProofreaders in 2000, to share the proofreading of ebooks betweenthousands of volunteers.
Distributed Proofreaders was launched in October 2000 by Charles Franksto support the digitization of public domain books and assist ProjectGutenberg in its efforts to offer free electronic versions of literaryworks. The books are scanned from a print version and converted into atext version by using OCR, 99% reliable at the best, which leaves a fewerrors per page. Volunteers choose one of the books available on thesite and proofread a given page. It is recommended they do a page perday if possible.
Distributed Proofreaders became the main source of Project Gutenberg'sebooks, and an official Project Gutenberg site in 2002. DistributedProofreaders became a separate legal entity in May 2006 and continuesto maintain a strong relationship with Project Gutenberg. 10,000 bookswere digitized, proofread, and "preserved for the world" in December2006, and 20,000 ebooks in April 2011, as “unique titles [sent] to thebookshelves of Project Gutenberg, free to enjoy for everybody. (…)Distributed Proofreaders is a truly international community. Peoplefrom over the world contribute.” Distributed Proofreaders Europe (DPEurope) began production in early 2004. Distributed Proofreaders Canada(DP Canada) began production in December 2007.
# “Less is more”
Project Gutenberg keeps its administrative and financial structure tothe bare minimum. Its motto fits into three words: "Less is more." Theminimal rules give much space to volunteers and to new ideas. The goalis to ensure its independence from loans and other funding and fromephemeral cultural priorities, to avoid pressure from politicians andothers. The aim is also to ensure respect for the volunteers, who canbe confident their work will be used not just for a few years but forgenerations. Volunteers can network through mailing lists, weekly ormonthly newsletters, discussion lists, forums, wikis and blogs.
In July 2011, for its 40th anniversary, Project Gutenberg offered36,000 ebooks being downloaded by the tens of thousands every day, withwebsites in the United States, in Australia, in Europe, and in Canada,and 40 mirror websites worldwide.
40 years after the beginning of Project Gutenberg, Michael Hartdescribes himself as a workaholic who has devoted his entire life tohis project. He considers himself a pragmatic and farsighted altruist.For years he was regarded as a nut but now he is respected.
Michael has often stated in his writings that, after Gutenberg allowinganyone to have its own print books for a small cost, Project Gutenbergwould allow anyone to have a library at no cost stored in a pocketdevice. The collection of Project Gutenberg has the size of a localpublic library, but this time available on the web to be downloaded forfree. The project’s goal is to change the world through freelyavailable ebooks that can be used and copied endlessly, and reading andculture for everyone at minimal cost.
1974 > THE INTERNET “TOOK OFF”
[Summary]The internet “took off” in 1974 with the creation of TCP/IP(Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol) by Vinton Cerf andBob Kahn, fifteen years before the invention of the web. The internetexpanded as a network linking U.S. governmental agencies, universitiesand research centers, before spreading worldwide in 1983. The internetgot its first boost in 1990 with the invention of the web by TimBerners-Lee, and its second boost in 1993 with the release of Mosaic,the first browser for the general public. The Internet Society (ISOC)was founded in 1992 by Vinton Cerf to promote the development of theinternet as a medium that was becoming part of our lives. There were100 million internet users in December 1997, with one million new usersper month, and 300 million users in December 2000.
The internet “took off” in 1974 with the creation of TCP/IP
(Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol) by Vinton Cerf and
Bob Kahn, fifteen years before the invention of the web.
# A new medium
The internet expanded as a network linking U.S. governmental agencies,universities and research centers, before spreading worldwide in 1983.
The internet got its first boost in 1990 with the invention of the webby Tim Berners-Lee, and its second boost in 1993 with the release ofMosaic, the first browser for the general public.
Vinton Cerf founded the Internet Society (ISOC) in 1992 to promote thedevelopment of the internet as a medium that was becoming part of ourlives. When interviewed by the French daily Libération on 16 January1998, he explained that the internet was doing two things. Like books,it could accumulate knowledge. But, more importantly, it presentedknowledge in a way that connected it with other information whereas, ina book, information stayed isolated.
Because the web was easy to use with hyperlinks going from one documentto the next, the internet could now be used by anyone, and not only bycomputer literate