Websites I love: Project Gutenberg

Project GutenbergThere are a lot of people who still see the internet as being something that is purely the domain of right-wing lunatics and porn fiends, which is of course a shame. The internet has created, or at least helped to create some wonderful things.

One of those wonderful things is Project Gutenberg, a website which makes available out-of-copyright books for reading on electronic devices. Started in 1971, where texts had to be typed into a mainframe computer by hand, the project boasted 30,000 books by the end of 2009.

Books are made available in a number of formats, one of which is always plain text to ensure it can display on more or less any device. Other formats include HTML and also some of the popular e-reader formats like .mobi and .epub.

Reading off a proper computer monitor is a bit of a nightmare, which is why using Gutenberg’s texts with an e-reader works so well. For me, getting the books onto the Kindle is just a case of plugging the Kindle in and copying the files across to it from my Mac – it takes seconds. Formatting is always pretty good, and it’s a great way of carrying round loads of great books to read, for nothing.

So if you’re ever struggling for great examples of people coming together to do Good Things using the web, don’t forget Project Gutenberg!

How to write an ebook

Seth Godin has put a Squidoo lens together on writing ebooks. It contains some excellent advice:

  • Write something worth reading!
  • Put it into Word or a similar word processor.
  • Change your page layout to wide.
  • Even better, change your page size to eight inches wide and six inches high.
  • Use a legible font for the body copy. Times is fine, but boring. Don’t use something fancy.
  • Use a headline font with bravado!
  • Now, if you have a Mac, just choose, “print to PDF”.
  • If you don’t have a Mac, go buy one and repeat the previous step, or, if you must, figure out how to do that step with a PC or a Commodore 64 or whatever it is you’re using.
  • Your eBook is now basic, but done.
  • If you open it in Adobe Acrobat (not the Reader, but the for sale version) you can add hyperlinks. Recommended.