THE PROJECT GUTENBERG PHILOSOPHY
The Project Gutenberg Philosophy is that Everyone Should Have Everything
[at least as far as the public domain goes, see my other articles, essays,
etc., on copyright for more about my thoughts on the public domain. For a
nominal answer to those questions here, I will simply state that copyright
was created solely for the purpose of stopping The Gutenberg Press from an
eventual copying of everything in the world inexpensively enough for mass,
and this was truly the first example of it, mass consumption. Beforehand,
there was no way anyone but the extremes of the socio-economic scale could
own a book, much less read it, but with The Gutenberg Press came the first
example of Mass Production in the entire world, and some wonder why it was
Johannes Gutenberg who was selected "Person of the Millennium" by Time. A
closer look at the history of copyright shows that, from the United States
perspective at least copyright has continually been used as a tool against
any and all technologies that might allow the masses to have copies of the
bulk of everything that has ever been written. Each time a new technology
has come along, from the first high speed steam powered printing press, of
1830 stifled by the US Copyright Act of 1831, to the electric presses with
their accompanying US Copyright Act of 1909 to stifle them, to the Xeroxes
and their accompanying US Copyright Act of 1976 to the computer revolution
and the Internet. . .and their accompanying US Copyright Act of 1998. The
links between the first copyright law and the imperial publishing attitude
of The Stationers, and the the links between the imperial publishing house
of Disney and the most recent US Copyright Acts are clearly recorded in an
ever growing number of history books, it takes a little more digging to do
the same for the copyright acts of 1909 and 1831. . .but unless you are an
entire believer in coincidence, you must acknowledge that revolutions were
in place to once again bring books to the masses, and steps were taken for
the purpose of stopping those revolutions, technological and street level,
that would/could/should have changed the face of their times as much as an
earlier invention of The Gutenberg Press revolutionized the world in point
after point to the new points where The Church no longer had a monopoly on
religious works, where Martin Luther's 95 Theses were published so widely,
and so quickly, that he could not be killed off without repercussions, too
powerful for even The Church to withstand, to the Scientific Revolution in
later years and thus to The Industrial Revolution. As mention above, this
is only a glimpse of the WAR between copyright and the public domain and I
strongly urge you to read more about it. However, that is not the topic--
don't ever let people fool you into being defensive rather than offensive,
when it comes to something like this. The philosophy of Project Gutenberg
is protagonistic, not antagonistic. . .please don't forget that.]
Another part of The Project Gutenberg Philosphy is that money should be an
entirely minimized factor to the point where it literally appears as if an
entire absence of money is feasible in all parts of what we do. Volunteer
labor is responsible for nearly 100% of Project Gutenberg, and this should
stop nearly any effort to take over Project Gutenberg. If you don't think
there have been such efforts, think again. . .but with Project Gutenberg a
decentralized operation in the extreme, there is little anyone can do from
any perspective short of amassing their own army of volunteers, to take it
in any particular direction.
On of the things I am proudest of about Project Gutenberg is that we could
be the first people to change the world in such a major manner without any
financial backing, any educational backing, and political backing, or, any
kind of backing at all. . .truly a grassroots operation in an era when the
multinational megacorporations rule the world as surely as dinosaurs did a
long long time ago.
These dinosaurs took decades to even recognize that eBooks existed or that
they would/could/should make any difference. . .but their responses were a
series of efforts to keep eBooks in the same archaic and arcane libraries,
along with the other stores of knowledge, and thus away from the masses.
But the FACT is that eBooks are so unbelievably powerful that one person's
efforts from a computer hidden away in a basement can still bring one book
to free access by a billion people. . .something that never could happen a
moment ago in the history of the entire planet.
"There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come."
eBooks are so much an idea whose time has come that a Google search I made
a year or so ago showed more hits for "ebook" "ebooks" "e-book" "e-books,"
than for "bomb" "bombs."
That is evidence aplently that eBooks are changing the world in a manner a
world of megadinosaurs have not been able to stop.
Yes, in the United States they have passed additions copyright laws to say
we cannot put millions of books on the Internet as eBooks, just in the few
decades since Project Gutenberg began, and the rest of the world has a new
set of laws trying to do the same thing to keep a million eBooks out of an
electronic library that is already revolutionizing the world.
There are already a million free eBooks on the Internet, without relying a
bit on the megacorporations such as Google, Yahoo, Amazon or governmental,
such as The Library of Congress, The British Library, etc., or even on the
educational megacorporations such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford,
and all the rest. . .still a million free eBooks created by the just plain
folk like you and me, sitting at their personal computers creating what is
likely to eventually be called "The Personal Library."
"The Personal Computer Creates The Personal Library"
Why would anyone want their own personal library?
Of course the major reason is the same reason for physical libraries: the
opportunity for the masses to have more access to more information.
In the case of personal libraries in personal computers are:
I live only two blocks from a very nice library, but the truth is that the
number of times I physically go there is on the order of one time per year
over quite a few years, even those times are often to their book sakes not
to use the traditional library services. In fact, I can't tell you a last
time I used their traditional library services of books, serials, tapes or
even the CD and DVDs that now comprise over half their circulation.
The fact is, even with my incredibly slow plain dailup connection, I get a
quicker response to nearly everything I was without getting up from ye old
computer here, and when I can't, usually a phone call does the trick and I
still don't have to move, since there is a phone right here.
For those who do not live right next to a library as is true for most, and
for those who have high speed Internet connections, which is true for most
of the households in the United States, the advantages/disadvantages I was
mentioning above are even stronger, as they would have to take much longer
to physically get to the library, and back, and would have to take shorter
times to get their results from the Internet.
Even more important than "Time Is Money" is "Time Is Life!"
However, before we leave this section let's not forget that those services
available at the library are not always just physical information accesses
via the mediums listed above, but also that remarkable ability, knowledge,
and just plain helpfulness of many of the librarians. . .some of whom were
literally worth their weight in gold.
Many of the phone calls I mentioned above were to those librarians!
Perhaps this should be included in the "Time" section above, but I figured
that the ability to search entire books or collections of books in seconds
as opposed to days, weeks, months or years, is of such a value as to be in
a section by itself.
There are simply things you can do with such searches that you could never
have done without this ability. As I used to discuss with my father, very
well regarded as a Shakespeare scholar, you could not have written a paper
concerning all the mentions Shakespeare made of marriage before searches--
it would just have been too massive a task to copy down all references to:
marriage, marry, betrothed, betrothal, wed, wedded, wedding, husband, wife
and all the other possibilities a thesaurus would yield.
It was hard enough once when my father once found a line in Shakespeare he
thought he had read somewhere else, and after years of rereading, he found
that the Bard had actually used the same line twice in different places.
Today, those years could be collapsed into less than a minute. . . .
Republishing, Quoting, etc.
Obviously when The Gutenberg Press was invented, the first thing do do was
to republish all the great books of all previous history and that was done
to such an extent that more books were printed in the first fifty years or
so of The Gutenberg Press than in all previous history of the world.
Equally obvious, with the advent of the Computer Revolution, was the quite
equal opportunity to republish all the great books of all previous history
so that billions of people could now have access to what had previously in
modern history been only available to millions.
Before The Gutenberg Press there were literally only thousands of people a
country could call upon to read, and most of these were confined to nobles
and The Church, and perhaps one person in each village who could be relied
upon to read the posted edicts and advertisements from the upper class.
After The Gutenberg Press this number swelled to millions.
Before The Gutenberg Press the average person owned zero books.
Before Project Gutenberg the average person owned zero libraries.
"Limited Distribution" Versus "Unlimited Distribution"
Today, right at this moment, there are over a billion persons out there on
the Internet who can download any of a million free eBooks and nearly half
a million from one single visit to and through http://worldebookfair.com
This is something that has never been possible before in the sense that in
all previous history the ONLY thing everyone could have all they wanted of
was. . . . . . .air.
Today any one of those billion plus people could republish their own quite
unique editions of the classics, something that was reserved for thousands
not that long ago.
The idea of a billion publishers is anathema to those who believe[d] in an
entirely "from the top down" distribution system.
For the entire history of the Earth, "Limited Distribution" has been quite
literally the only force on which civilization has been based.
The philosophy of "Limited Distribution" dates all the way to the ameoeba.
"It's better if _I_ have it and YOU do NOT have it."
That has been the basic philosophy of the world for all of our history.
Today, for the first time, there is something besides air that everyone is
allowed to have as much as they want of. . .
Today the average computer sells for well under $500, and a used computer,
literally almost free if they are much over one generation old.
Just a couple days ago I bought a very nice little computer that was $400,
or so, just two years ago, for $25, and that probably wasn't the best deal
I saw this summer, as I saw several computers a little older with features
way beyond this one for about the same price. . .it all depends on what is
your heart's desire when it comes to computers.
The truth is that nearly any computer on the shelf today can hold library,
after library, after library in various eBook formats, and you still would
have only used up one corner of the hard drive. But suppose you wanted an
electronic library of even greater proportions?
You could add a terabyte to your under $500 computer for under $500!
Suppose your average book took up a megabyte of space.
A terabyte would hold a million such books. . .for $500!
And, by the time you filled it up, new terabytes would be much cheaper.
The Project Gutenberg Philosophy is that everyone should be a publisher or
a library owner or both. . .or just have access whenever and wherever they
wanted to entire libraries of materials, not just books.
In addition to being able to read all these books on the screen, or to put
them down on paper, for those who still feel the need for paper, we should
not forget that there are now "3-D printers" for personal computers and it
costs no more to buy some of these today than to buy the full IBM-AT, back
in 1984, not even counting for inflation, which even at only 3% would be a
120% factor since 1984, and inflation was running over 10% at the time.
The truth is that one of the major reasons copyright is such an issue now,
is because THEY ARE SCARED TO DEATH that someone will invent the Star Trek
replicator. . .and that everyone WILL be able to have everything.
So they are passing laws against it NOW!!!
When you can buy a printer that can print out a car or a pizza, will these
all be illegal???
The first copyright made The Gutenberg Press illegal.
The 1831 US Copyright Act made the 1830 patented high speed presses worthy
of much less in terms of actual use by destroying 14 public domain years.
The 1909 US Copyright act made the high speed electric presses worth less,
by destroying yet another 14 public domain years.
The 1976 US Copyright Act made the Xerox machine worth so much less by the
extension of copyright to an average of 75 years, way beyond the 30 years,
as was the average under 1909's US Copyright act.
And finally, one you can all remember:
The 1998 US Copyright Act removed yet another million books out of the old
public domain expectancy, on top of the millions from 1976, etc., just for
the purpose of keeping them away from the masses.
How do we know this?
There are nearly 33 million books under copyright today.
There are only 2 million of these in print.
That means the copyright laws are 97% to keep books away from the masses--
and only 3% to protect book sales.
90% of all copyrights were never renewed when it was a nominal fee, but it
was so important to keep those books out of the hands of the masses that a
law was passed eliminating that nominal fee and form to extend copyrights,
and ALL copyrights, even the 97% not in use, were excluded from the masses
and could not be included on the Internet public libraries.
The conclusion is that there are PROtagonists and ANTangonists.
Which do YOU want to be???
PS If you try to donate a book to Project Gutenberg and are troubled with
some rules and regulations someone puts in front of you, don't worry, just
send it to one of these three:
Michael S. Hart, Founder, Project Gutenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
USA Phone: 217-344-6623
John Guagliardo, Founder, World eBook Library<email@example.com>
USA Phone: 808-292-2086
Prof. Greg Newby, CEO, Project Gutenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
USA Phone: 907-450-8663
and the likelihood is that one of us will get it posted for you. . .if not
on Project Gutenberg, then probably we can get it on another site, as only
real restrictions are for copyright permission or on vanity press books.
Michael Hart's Online Writings
Some Pictures of Michael Hart
- May The Source Be With You, Michael Hart's Hopes and Dreams for Project Gutenberg
- Michael Hart's Vision of Project Gutenberg, Still in progress, but worth a look.
- The Most Common Misconceptions of Project Gutenberg, Still in progress.
- In Defense of Project Gutenberg: The Early 2007 Edition
- A Word About Censorship and Free Speech, Why I Can't Say the Same Things to You on the Various Listservers.
- Introduction to Michael Hart's Blog, A Brief Outline of the History of Project Gutenberg, The Net, etc.
- An Introduction to Michael Hart, A Very Brief Introduction, More Later
- The Project Gutenberg Philosophy, Just A Beginning, More Later
- Who Invented eBooks?, Now That eBooks Are "Real". . .Who Get's The Credit?
- My Education, An Early Chapter From My Memoirs, More Later
- A Brief History of Project Gutenberg, Written on request, still in progress, comments welcome.
- Why You Should Support Project Gutenberg,
- eBooks Critics: Judging An eBook By Its Cover, Literally, How eBooks Critics Focus On Form/Formality Rather Than On Content
- How Gutenberg Started The Industrial Revolution, Various Ways The Gutenberg Revolution led to The Industrial Revolution.
- The Fifth Information Age, What You Didn't Know About The First Four Information Ages
- Don't Judge A Book By The Cover, Replies to comments about form and formality for eBooks.
- Why eBooks Should Be More Than eXeroxes, A Reply To Those Pushing For Scans and Canonical Errors
- The History of Publishing, A Brief History of Publishing, Censorhip, and Copyright
- Who Owns Copyrights?, Even Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens was forced to sell copyrights.
- Predictions From January 1, 2006, Please send your suggestions for predictions to be included.
- Prediction: Cell-Phone Growth Rates Will Peak In 2007-2008, Please send your suggestions for predictions to be included.
- How Much Editing? How Many Editors?, Changes being made to the traditional publishing world by the invention of eBooks, eLibraries, blogs, etc.
- In Defense of eBooks, Responses to Various Attacks
- Counting Project Gutenberg eBooks, Responses to Various Suggestions
- Fear and Fearmongering on the Internet, The uses of fear to control Internet discussion groups.
- A First Look at 3rd Millennium Media, How The Power Elite Cannot Allow Bloggers to Replace Dan Rather.
- Why So Many Dollars On Sports?, Why Don't The People Who Build Our World Get The Rewards?
- No One's Personal Taste Rules PG, How Project Gutenberg Does NOT Reflect Anyone's Personal Taste
- US School Systems, Systemic Failures, If the grass is greener on the other side of the schoolyard fence. . . ?
- Growing Up In the 1950's, Was it better growing up with The Nelsons and the Cleavers?
- The Chandelier Diatribe, Why are they promoting a new Dark Ages in the Information Age?
- The Chandelier Diatribe Revisited, another essay about promoting new Information Age Dark Ages, taken from "A Brief History Of The Internet."
- My Writing Style, A Few Comments About My Writing Style, and some Examples
- Reality Sleeves, A Few Comments About How The Media and Politicians Fake Reality
- The Cult of the Amateur, A Four Part Response to the Professional Punditry's Diatribes About the Inroads Being Made by the Internet on Their Monopolies.
- eBooks Are Winning, A Response to the Professional Punditry's Diatribes In Which They Continually Ask Why eBooks Aren't Making It Whey They Know Full Well eBooks ARE Making It.
- Einstein's Most Important Question, Einstein said, "The most important decision you will ever make is: whether you live in a positive universe or a negative universe."
- Einstein's Most Important Question, A Translation of The Essay Into Italian, Einstein said, "The most important decision you will ever make is: whether you live in a positive universe or a negative universe."
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