Nothing to read?

We may recall from school days that Gutenberg was the fellow who invented moveable type. As a result, literacy moved from the realm of the rich and religious to within the reach of common folk. Today, the Net offers a similar leap in access to information, and the aptly-named Project Gutenberg is helping speed the process.

Project Gutenberg began in 1971 when Michael Hart was given an operator’s account with $100 million of computer time by the operator’s of the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the University of Illinois. Hart wanted to use the time to create new value, and quickly came up with the idea for the storage, retrieval, and searching of what was stored in libraries around the world.

Project Gutenberg is based on the premise that anything that can be entered into a computer can be reproduced indefinitely. Once a book or any other item is in electronic format, any number of copies can and will be available. Electronic texts (Etexts) created by Project Gutenberg are made available in the simplest, easiest to use ASCII format, which can be read by 99 per cent of all computers.

Project Gutenberg selects texts in the hope that extremely large portions of the audience wilwant and use them frequently. Work on inputting texts has continued apace since 1971, and the projects goal is to have 10,000 texts on-line by the year 2001. Naturally, texts which are not subject to copyright are chosen.

So the next time you have “nothing to read”, visit the website listed below and pick up a classic for free. Some of the thousands of available texts include works by Shakespeare, Fielding, Wilde, Dickens, Poe, Dante..the list is long and growing daily.