Saturday, 24 September 2011

Freedom Of Speech...

There's been a bit of a bookish theme emerging in my posts of late - from the advent of Audrey to yesterday's Literary Gold and a little bit of something in between - and I've been inspired again by some leisurely breakfast reading over some excellent pancakes and coffee this morning.

Apparently Michael S. Hart died earlier in the month. 'Michael S Hart?' you say. 'Never heard of him.'  Nor had I. But this is the man behind the quest to provide free books for everyone on the Internet.

Michael S. Hart was an American author who began Project Gutenberg, an 'organisation' (for want of a better word) that provides free e-books to the general public. Trying to understand what more he might do with the computer provided to him by the University of Illinois computer centre, he wondered what value might be brought about through using it as part of a potential information network and on Independence Day 1971, he typed in the American Declaration of Independence and posted the text for others to download. 

And all this well before what we've come to know and love as the World Wide Web.

By 1987, he had posted 313 books this way including the Bible, Homer, Mark Twain and Shakespeare. Then through the University's PC User Group and with help of programmer Mark Zinzow, he was able to create a way for others to be involved as well. As at today's count, 36,000 e-books have been digitised and digitally proofed by a veritable army of volunteers. And are completely free.

Aside from his commitment to providing e-books to as many people as possible, Michael's mission was to "Help Break Down the Bars of Ignorance and Illiteracy".  

He may have lived a rather impoverished life but to my mind, Mr Hart left us an amazing legacy.


ps...BTW, I'm in Prague peeps. Posting this from a rather lovely hotel room. You may be wildly envious if you like. Look out for my travelling titbits soon.

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