Volunteering for Nerds and Shut-Ins

30 12 2009

This isn’t a typical book post.  I’m roughly 70 pages from being completely caught up with the Anita Blake series, which has really overwhelmed the rest of my reading.  I am also almost finished with Malcom Gladwell’s What The Dog Saw, which was a holiday gift and totally freaking rocks.  One of the most interesting and engaging books I’ve read in a really long time.  Go and read it!  But, really, this post isn’t about any book in particular – rather I want to talk with you about Project Gutenberg.

For those that aren’t familiar, Project Gutenberg, started in 1971 by Michael Hart, is working on converting all books into etexts.  They take scans of books that are in the public domain, meaning their copyright has expired, and transfer them into computer files.  The goal is to basically build a huge online library.  Everything is free and there are over 30,000 books to date with more being added all the time.  I’m personally not a big ebook reader, I don’t have a dedicated reader and I have a lot of trouble trying to read a book on a computer.  My brain simply does not want to do it.  However, I’m a huge fan of this operation and others like it – most notably Google Books (which, man, is that a controversial topic in the book world).  I think it is really important to make books available to anyone, anywhere and also to preserve those books that are older, out of print, not very popular and/or difficult to find.

So, with all that being said, I want to share my new hobby.  One of Project Gutenberg’s sources is Distributed Proofreaders.  People will upload scans of books, they have some sort of computer magic that converts it to text, and then volunteers proofread it and publish it.  And I am now one of those volunteers!  And you should be, too!  It’s super easy, takes literally almost no time at all, and is rewarding.  They recommend a page a day, which takes less than 10 minutes.  They have a great program for beginners – specific “beginners only” books and a network of mentors that double check your work and give you feedback.  It isn’t editing or anything, you don’t need to have a bunch of grammar or formatting knowledge – you basically make sure that the converted text matches the original scanned page.  Easy peasy, y’all.  So, if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to contribute to society more, or if you simply care about knowledge and want to make sure it is preserved, or if you’re just bored – go be a Distributed Proofreader.  Because if my lazy ass can do it, anyone can.

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