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Main article: List of psychology texts available through Project Gutenberg
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Project Gutenberg (often abbreviated as PG) is a volunteer effort to digitize, archive, and distribute cultural works. Founded in 1971, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books. The project tries to make these as free as possible, in long-lasting, open formats that can be used on almost any computer.


Project Gutenberg was started by Michael Hart in 1971. Hart, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, obtained access to a Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer in the university's Materials Research Lab. Through friendly operators, he received an account with a virtually unlimited amount of computer time; its value at that time has since been variously estimated at $100,000 or $100,000,000.[1] Hart has said he wanted to "give back" this gift by doing something that could be considered to be of great value.

This particular computer was one of the 15 nodes on the computer network that would become the Internet. Hart believed that computers would one day be accessible to the general public and decided to make works of literature available in electronic form for free. He used a copy of the United States Declaration of Independence in his backpack, and this became the first Project Gutenberg e-text. He named the project for Johannes Gutenberg, the fifteenth century German printer who propelled the movable-type printing press revolution.

By the mid-1990s, Hart was running Project Gutenberg from Illinois Benedictine College. More volunteers had joined the effort. Most text was entered manually until image scanners and optical character recognition software improved and became more widely available, which made book scanning more feasible. Hart later came to an arrangement with Carnegie Mellon University, which agreed to administer Project Gutenberg's finances. As the volume of e-texts increased, volunteers began to take over the project's day-to-day operations that Hart had run.

In 2000, a non-profit corporation, the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, Inc. was chartered in Mississippi to handle the project's legal needs. Donations to it are tax-deductible. Long-time Project Gutenberg volunteer Gregory Newby became the foundation's first chief executive officer. Also in 2000, Charles Franks founded Distributed Proofreaders, which allowed the proofreading of scanned texts to be distributed among many volunteers over the Internet. This effort greatly increased the number and variety of texts being added to Project Gutenberg, as well as making it easier for new volunteers to start contributing.

Pietro Di Miceli, an Italian volunteer, developed and administered the first Project Gutenberg website and started the development of the Project online Catalog. In his ten years in this role (1994–2004), the Project web pages won a number of awards, often being featured in "best of the Web" listings, and contributing to the Project popularity [1].

Starting in 2004, an improved online catalog made Project Gutenberg content easier to browse, access, and link to.

Project Gutenberg is now hosted by ibiblio at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Scope of collection

As of October, 2006, Project Gutenberg had over 19,000 items in its collection, with an average of over fifty new e-books being added each week. [2]

These are primarily works of literature from the western Western cultural tradition. In addition to literature such as novels, poetry, short stories, and drama, Project Gutenberg also has cookbooks, reference works and issues of periodicals. The Project Gutenberg collection also has a few non-text items such as audio files and music notation files.

Most releases are in English, but there are also significant numbers in many other languages. As of August 2006, the non-English languages most represented are (in order): French,German, Finnish, Dutch, and Spanish.

Whenever possible, Gutenberg releases are available in plain text]], mainly using US-ASCII character encoding but frequently extended to ISO-8859-1. Other formats may be released as well when submitted by volunteers, with the most common being HTML. Formats which are not easily editable, such as PDF, are generally not considered to fit in with the goals of Project Gutenberg, although a few have been added to the collection. For years, there has been discussion of using some type of XML, although progress on that has been slow.

Project Gutenberg e-texts have been distributed on CD-ROM.


Michael Hart said in 2004, "The mission of Project Gutenberg is simple: 'To encourage the creation and distribution of ebooks.'" [3]

A slogan of the project is "break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy", because its volunteers aim to continue spreading public literacy and appreciation for the literary heritage just as public libraries began to do in the late 19th century.

Project Gutenberg is intentionally decentralized. For example, there is no selection policy dictating what texts to add. Instead, individual volunteers work on what they are interested in, or have available. The Project Gutenberg collection is intended to preserve items for the long term, so they cannot be lost by any one localized accident. In an effort to ensure this, the entire collection is backed-up regularly and mirrored on servers in many different locations.

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Unlike some other digital library projects, Project Gutenberg does not claim new copyright on titles it publishes. Instead, it encourages their free reproduction and distribution.

The texts of the books in the Project Gutenberg collection are distributed as public domain under U.S. copyright law. The licensing included with each ebook puts some restrictions on what can be done with the Project Gutenberg trademarked version (such as distributing them in modified form, or for commercial purposes) as long as the Project Gutenberg trademark is used. If the header is stripped and the trademark not used, then the public domain texts can be reused without any restrictions.

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In 1998 the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended the duration of already-existing copyright by 20 years. This has prevented Project Gutenberg from adding many titles that would otherwise have become public domain in the U.S.


Project Gutenberg has been criticized for lack of scholarly rigor in its e-texts: for example, in inadequate detailing of editions used and in the omission of original published prefaces and critical apparatus. A marked improvement in preserving such text can be seen by comparing earlier texts with newer ones; most new e-texts preserve edition information and prefaces. The editions also are not the most current scholarly editions, for these later editions are not usually in the public domain.

Project Gutenberg requires that all of its e-texts include a version in ASCII plain text where feasible, believing that it is the format most likely to be readable in the extended future. (They do not require an ASCII plain text version for mathematics or languages that would be hard to represent in ASCII.) Project Gutenberg also includes a variety of generally open formats alongside the ASCII ones and generated from them. Some project members and users have requested more advanced formats, believing them to be much easier to read. ASCII text by definition cannot hold some information, such as bold, italics, superscript, and some non-English characters.

Affiliated projects

All affiliated projects are independent organizations which share the same ideals, and have been given permission to use the Project Gutenberg trademark. They often have a particular national, or linguistic focus.

  • Project Gutenberg Australia hosts many texts which are public domain according to Australian copyright law, but still under copyright (or of uncertain status) in the United States, with a focus on Australian writers and books about Australia.
  • PG-EU is a sister project which operates under the copyright law of the European Union. One of its aims is to include as many languages as possible into Project Gutenberg. It operates in Unicode to ensure that all alphabets can be represented easily and correctly.
  • Project Gutenberg of the Philippines [2] "aims to make as many books available to as many people as possible, with a special focus on the Philippines and Philippine languages".
  • Project Gutenberg Europe [3] is a project run by Project Rastko in Serbia-Montenegro. It aims at being a Project Gutenberg for all of Europe, and has started to post its first projects in 2005. It is running the Distributed Proofreaders software to quickly produce etexts.
  • Project Gutenberg Luxembourg [4] publishes mostly, but not exclusively, books that are written in Luxembourgish.
  • Project Gutenberg Consortia Center [5] is an affiliate specializing in collections of collections. These do not have the editorial oversight or consistent formatting of the main Project Gutenberg. Thematic collections, as well as numerous languages, are featured.
  • Projekti Lönnrot [6] is a project started by Finnish Project Gutenberg volunteers.

Although Projekt Gutenberg-DE was given permission to use the Gutenberg name years ago, not everyone considers it to be an affiliated project, because of philosophical differences. Projekt Gutenberg-DE copyrights its product and limits access to browsable web-versions of its texts.

For a list of other similar projects, some of which have been inspired by Project Gutenberg, see the list of digital library projects.


  1. The History and Philosophy of Project Gutenberg, August 1992.
  2. According to gutindex-2006, there were 1,653 new Project Gutenberg items posted in the first 33 weeks of 2006. This averages out to 50.09 per week. This does not include additions to affiliated projects.
  3. The Project Gutenberg Mission Statement, Updated October 23 2004

(Project Gutenberg calls its products "ebooks," and that term is used here. The corresponding Wikipedia term is e-texts)

See also

  • Google Book Search
  • Open Content Alliance

External links

  • Official website
  • Distributed Proofreaders a worldwide group of volunteer editors which are now the main source of ebooks for Project Gutenberg
  • HTML Writers Guild provides guidance in using XHTML and XML markup for Project Gutenberg
  • Works by Project Gutenberg at Project Gutenberg (note that many of these have been renamed to Project Gutenberg for trademark concerns, and are not original with the Project)
  • GutenMark — a tool for automatically creating high-quality HTML or LaTeX markup from Project Gutenberg etexts. (not affiliated with Project Gutenberg)
  • GutenPy — an opensource text reader and offline catalog browser for Project Gutenberg written with pythonGTK for windows and linux. (not affiliated with Project Gutenberg)
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