Turning over a new leaf with Project Gutenberg: May 21, 2013

As you might have guessed, traveling around the world has its limits — luggage weight limits, specifically. Besides learning how to roll everything tighter and taking a heretofore unimaginably small number of shoes, luggage weight limits also mean that packing books are out of the question. Which is fine, what with eReaders being all the rage now. However, as an adult who is severely arthritic when climbing aboard the latest gizmo bandwagon, I did not fully comprehend the usefulness and importance of the said eReader until we were already on our trip and I faced a screen full of Bjorn’s preferred fact-filled and pragmatic tomes instead of the fun/classic/fictional novels I enjoy. I know, I know; I could just buy and download some. However, as I also am the product of a childhood spent in public libraries, I am not that keen on the idea (although should I ever write a book, I am sure a right-quick turnaround on that stance will be forthcoming.)


So it was with real joy that I discovered Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org),  a website full of free books online! According to its website, it is the first and largest single collection of ebooks and was founded by Michael Hart in 1971. Literary works of all genres are available, in several languages, from “Pride and Prejudice” (Jane Austen) to “The Prince” (Niccolo Machiavelli); “Ulysses” (James Joyce) to the United States Bill of Rights. I, myself have had the pleasure of reading “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, “Three Men in a Boat,” by Jerome K. Jerome, a number of books from the surprisingly large series of L. Frank Baum-inspired “Oz” books and a couple of books from the Laura Ingalls’ “Little House” series.


Finally, after having read about 10 books this way, I blithely looked at the top of the page to discover these words: “Did you know that you can help us produce ebooks by proof-reading just one page a day? Go to: Distributed Proofreaders”


A lightbulb went off (although how could it not, seeing as the image of one is conveniently placed next to the above statement.) The pros to making this another service project of mine were overwhelming: I admire the project and its mission statement; I could do it from anywhere (that had an Internet connection) wearing anything; I love reading anyway;  and I was a copy editor for a newspaper — how hard could this be? (Why oh why do I keep asking this question?)


Being a good and dedicated volunteer, I actually read in detail all SEVEN pages of the walk-through. The pages were crammed full of information in separate boxes and iframes, and each of those subdivisions seemed to have humongous amounts of links (which I dutifully clicked). Adding to the information overload, most of the descriptions of the activities were awash in alphabet soup and specialized jargon, including but not limited to: Diffs, P1, F1, SR, PPV and my favorite — PPer.  Plus, this is not your ordinary proofreading; it’s very specific and specialized to Project Gutenberg.


By the time I finally read the exhortation to “Have fun!” a dull ache was pounding at the back of my head and the pocket of flesh below my left eye was twitching. My hand trembled as I clicked on “Start proofreading.” Not only had that massive overload of information provided instructions and tips in terrorizing detail, but it also had put the fear of the punctilious in me. I did NOT want to make a mistake, for who knew what would happen then?


But it wasn’t that bad.


In fact, it’s pretty fun. Even when I didn’t do things correctly, I received a nice email that lavishly praised the things I had done well before gently pointing out the errors and the explanations behind the corrections. And, it turns out all those links to forums/guidelines/diagrams/more forums are quite useful. After proofing a couple of pages, I’m breathing easier and relaxing. Project Gutenberg really is A-OK  in my book (haaaa.  I just couldn’t resist.)


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