Project Gutenberg on quest to digitize 1 billion books
- Johannes Gutenberg may have invented modern printing, but Michael Hart invented the e-book. At least that's what Hart's e-mail signature says.
Indeed, Hart is considered by many in technology and literary circles to be the creator of the electronic book. As founder of the Gutenberg Project, named for the 15th century printer credited with inventing movable type, Hart began transcribing and scanning books on July 4, 1971 -- "technically July 5," Hart corrected himself in an e-mail; "it was all night."
For Gutenberg the man, society has had six centuries to determine his role in publishing.
Things aren't as clear cut in e-books. In the '70s, the Palo Alto Research Center, owned by Xerox, was also working on digitizing literature with its Dynabook project.
But Project Gutenberg persists as a leader in the field, offering more than 33,000 out-of-copyright books as free downloads. They can be read on a computer, loaded onto a Kindle, or found on Apple's iBookstore for the iPad. (Apple approached Project Gutenberg directly for access to its catalog, and inquired about page design and errors in the text, Hart said.)