The Project Gutenberg FAQ - VV-TA

Tony Adam

How did you learn about PG?

It's been so long, I don't really remember! I probably read about it on a library listserv (I'm a librarian), and since making old texts accessible has always been a concern of mine, I jumped right in.


What was your first contact like?

Great! Mike Hart has always been easy to deal with via e-mail, although we've never talked. He and the "crew du jour" directed me to the FAQ and I took it from there.


What was the first PG job you did? How did it go?

My first job might have been Henry James' Turn of the Screw (I just found a note from September 1993 on copyright clearance for it). Since in a former incarnation I was editorial assistant for the Henry James Review, I thought that would be a good start. I've always typed the files (I'm a fast typist), and I think we had few problems along the way.


How did you develop your PG experience from there?

Helter-skelter, much like my reading habits. I work at a historically black university, so getting 19th C African-American works posted is a central concern. I've done Clotelle (the first A-A American novel) and the autobiography of Henry O. Flipper, the West Point cadet, and I'm always looking for something new in that area. Somewhere along the way I got sidetracked into essays by Whittier and other U.S. poets, and I've collaborated on early American historical documents and Sir Walter Scott with a fellow PGer up in Ohio and Chinese documents with another contact in Japan. A couple of years ago, I saw that someone in San Francisco needed help with the Shakespeare Apocrypha, and that has occupied my time on and off since. It's always something!


Can you tell us about the first text you produced?

I think it was The Turn of the Screw, which was a good starting point--not too long, a good read, etc. Just plugging away at the text a few pages a day made the process go quickly.


Why do you spend your hours contributing to PG?

I love the idea of making all of this print knowledge available to anyone anywhere. Working in a library that has suffered budget problems over the years opened my eyes to the need for acquisition of as much free stuff as possible for our students and faculty. Besides, in a perverse way, it's fun!


Do you specialize in any particular kind of work? of texts?

I've probably focused more on plays, historical documents, and 19th C U.S. works than anything else.


What do you like about making a PG text?

Having a project come to fruition--finally seeing an almost forgotten text come to life again.


What do you dislike about making a PG text?

The work can be tedious at times, depending on the author. But sometimes you have to plow through to get something significant processed. For example, we probably should have more philosophers represented, but what a horrible thing it would be to scan Kant!


Where do you get your eligible books?

Mostly from my library's collection, although I finally purchased my own copy of the Shakespeare Apocrypha (it's very hard to find, which makes it very suitable for posting). I've interlibrary loaned some items, but that's also been unusual.


Do you type or scan? What Scanner / OCR / Editor / WP do you prefer?

I still type everything--it's easier when working with a play, I've discovered. But I'm purchasing a scanner in the very near future and will do more with that.


How do you check your text? Any special tools? spellchecker? Do you print it out and read it? Put it on your PDA and read it? Have a voice synthesis program read it aloud to you from your PC?

I usually run it through the spellchecker, although depending on the work, I read it line by line a second time.


Do you have any tips'n'tricks or special routines you go through when preparing a text?

The best thing to do is put yourself on a schedule--do a set amount of pages every day, and you'll be surprised how quickly you get to the end. I also make a pencil mark in the book at a stopping point and even read back a paragraph to double check what I last entered.


How long does it take you to make a text?

Depends on my work schedule, other assignments, time of year, etc. A play might take a couple of weeks, but a Walter Scott novel could take six months. I think my record is probably one day for an essay, but that's unusual.


Do you work alone, or do you share the work of each text? Does anyone regularly help you proof the text?

I've worked alone and on teams, depending on the text. No one regularly helps to proof the text, but occasionally someone else does.


Do you do some PG work regularly, or drift in and out as opportunity permits, or when you feel like it?

I consider myself a regular, as time permits. In other words, I haven't dropped out of the picture, but sometimes I might not enter anything for up to a month.


How many different kinds of work, or different books, have you done?

Not sure how many different books I've done, but it's been a wide variety: James' and Scott's novels, Whittier's essays, a whole collection of early American documents (mostly New Netherlands), Shakespeare (accepted canon and the apocryphal works), some odd works (The Psychology of Beauty comes to mind)--the list goes on and on. I've even forgotten that I've done some titles!


What do you like about the PG process?

That it's open-ended--if I think I have something that should be posted, I don't have to jump through hoops and ladders to get permission (other than copyright clearance).


What do you dislike about the PG process?

Can't think of anything offhand.


Is there anything you'd like to see PG doing differently?

I know it's a bone of contention, but we probably need to explore moving away from ASCII.


If one of your friends approached you to ask advice about how to get started contributing to PG, what would you tell them?

Start with something fun, that's close to your heart, and keep plugging away a little bit at a time.


What do you expect Project Gutenberg to be like in 5 years? 10 years?

We'll probably be a whole lot bigger (texts and personnel), with a different look to the texts. Maybe we'll even have more audio versions of texts, using some of the new software that's coming out.