What started as something that looked simple -- a "double" interview with Michael Hart of the huge and venerable Project Gutenberg and Jimmy Wales of the brand-new Nupedia open content encyclopedia project -- turned into a series of interesting dissertations on the nature of copyright and online publishing, among other things. You may want to bookmark the page below and return to it a few times to grasp all that both gentlemen (especially Michael Hart) had to say.
Q1) For Mr. Hart by ContinuousPark
I've noticed that the Project Gutenberg site has a rather straightforward interface, you get the database queries you need but I've noticed that's not very friendly for some users; computer illiterate users that I've recommended your website to and children, for instance.
We started so long ago that at that time all our readers were incredibly computer literate. . .so we are working from the wrong end toward the right end of the user spectrum. . .what we really need are brand new users to tell us how to make things easiest. . .our people are way too experienced to be able to see how things look to new users. This is why we request that our readers send us messages on how to improve both the sites and the Etexts.
This sort of thing has always been a problem for "new" computer users, even back 20 years ago. . .the manuals NEVER MAKE ANY SENSE until you already know what they are trying to tell you. . .and then, and only then, can you understand what they were trying to tell you in the first place.
I have been [in]famous for saying over the decades that anyone who could write a manual even HALF the people could understand would make millions. I think the DUMMIES people are at least trying in that direction. . . .
SO. . .PLEASE BE *ENCOURAGED* TO SEND US SUGGESTIONS FOR OUR INTERFACES, as well as suggestions and corrections for our Etexts and Web pages.
More of Q1)
I've also noticed that all texts are available as text-only and I understand your decision behind this.
Actually, more and more of our Etexts are available in more formats, it's just that very often those who reformat them want the be the ONLY places to get those formats, and thus don't share back with us.
It's a little sad that way, but we have tried to honor the requests from other Etext sites that want to be the ONLY source for our Etexts in various formats. . .though we disagree with that philosophy. Some day, when I am older and crankier, perhaps I will just raid their sites against their wills for conversions that are non-copyrightable: though these days people even claim copyrights on the most trivial conversions. Someday that older and crankier me may even take them [some are major universities] to court for "misuse of copyright."
But that's hopefully a decade down the road. . .I want to concentrate on the more positive for now.
More More Q1)
So, my question has two sides: Are there any plans to build a front-end for PG that is more user-friendly; by this I mean, for instance, profiles of major authors and new acquisitions,
My own personal goals are just to try to do two books per day, and the copyright research, and go through 100+ emails, write the Newsletters, train new volunteers, and things like that. . .I have never been very directly involved with the front-ends. . .those are all handled pretty much by the various volunteers who create and run them. I make some suggestions, and only once in a great while actually insist that the Project Gutenberg philosophy requires that certain things actually be done. . .or not done.
Some of the volunteers don't think I am bossy enough. . . .
However, we have 1700 volunteers, and some of them are ALWAYS working on new front ends, indexes, catalogues, etc. We did try doing profiles and/or synopses, but the response was pretty grim, so we probably won't try that again for a while.
More of Q1)
...featured writings each week, a section for children, personalization features so that the site recommends books for me, and so on. Are there any plans to, while always having text-only versions, also have automatically generated versions in other formats (pdf, postscript, and especially some of the new formats for eBooks or PDAs)??
I would be happy to forward your suggestions to our volunteers, if you would like. . .we do plan on more formats, that can be automated, but the rest of your suggestions would take real human beings. . . .
Please send me anything you would like them to consider.
Yet More of Q1
I think some of these changes, just having a front page that changes everyday with new reading suggestions and lures the visitors to go and read (in the same fashion that makes people go to BN or Amazon to buy books) could make your site much more popular than it already is but how high is this on your list of priorities, if at all?
Well, I've never been into the flashy changing front pages that require you to log in every day. . .even though we do post two new books on the average day. . .do you think we should try to announce things every day instead of every month?
We have actually been considering making a kind of electronic billboard that shows the latest handful of books, what day they were posted, etc. and eventually trying to put up similar physical billboards, if we ever get some real funding to get some real public relations going.
Until then, we're really still just a basement operation, and can only do what we can do with no money. . .which is still quite a lot. . .just not as flashy as those with billions of dollars of PR budgets. . . .
Project Gutenberg file format
I have been an avid fan of the project for as long as I've been aware of it.
I will pass on your kind words, too!
My question has several parts pertaining to presentation technologies.
We're a long way from 1970 when ASCII was the only viable lingua franca for a network; is there any discussion of updating the file format for the project?
Specifically, something *ML-ish which would allow for presentation in multiple output formats. I am thinking of the spread of e-book readers and the like and increasing the potential readership. With a proper infrastructure, project texts could even be rendered to adaptive browsers with VoxML or other technologies.
As I mentioned above, many, perhaps even most, of our titles are available in multiple formats around the world, but those who create them have not been willing for us to post them on our own sites, and I won't post them without their express permission. . .at least not yet.
Secondly, if the project doesn't choose to modify its longstanding ASCII formatting standards, are there efforts afoot to programmatically apply some structured tagging on-the-fly to allow for easy translation by other tools? Is this an itch I'll have scratch for myself?
Yes, I figure we can create something like an XML file that will create other formats on the fly. . .but we try not to help create format standards, so XML might not be the one, but I plan to encourage XML experiments, and then see how our readers like it. If we get good responses, we will do even more.
I hope we can eventually support virtually all formats, though we recently tried the new .lit format [Microsoft Open Book Reader] and were pretty soundly thrashed for even posting the files one of our volunteers made without us even asking.
You should be aware that our volunteers choose 99% of what they do, totally on their own, and that they actually have to pester me to get me to give them anything like an assignment or even suggestions.
I am not so egotistical as to present this as "Michael Hart's List of the Great Books in the Formats You Should Read Them In. . .."
But I am will to try nearly all formats to see how they fly.
At Nupedia, we are using the TEI-Lite XML dtd (or, we try to, although we need technical help) to markup the articles in a fashion that will make it easy for people to reuse our articles in all kinds of formats, from plaintext ascii to paper publishing, to hypertext, etc.
Q3) Appropriate Copyright Length?
Originally, copyright length was 12 years, with the option to extend it on the last year for another 12 years.
Currently, it's up to 95 years (if memory serves).
Something like that, it might have been 14 and 14, and since they count to the end of the last year, it might have gotten close to an extra year. Now closer to 96 years. . .as per the 1998 [Sonny Bono] US Copyright Act, and no renewal is required under the new laws, so even copyright holders who have NO interest in perpetuating their monopolies still do, without cost and without effort. I think we need more "sunset laws". . .those that require things to be renewed. . .to keep us from drowning in a sea of unrequited paperwork.
More of Q3)
According to the Constitution, it was supposed to be for "limited times," but 95 years is longer than most people's average lifespan. To me, it seems that the copyright protection is effectively "forever" since odds are an average American would never (legally) get the chance to apply creative talent to make a derivative work from the Star Wars universe, for example.
If this weren't so serious, I would be laughing [rotflol] because you could be using my own exact words here!. . .I nearly listed YOUR words as part of MY reply because they look so much like what _I_ would have said in reply!
So. . .I couldn't agree more!!!
I am inserting the quote from the US Constitution here, on copyright & patent:
"to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries" (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8).
Hmm, do you notice it doesn't say to publisher or manufacturers. . .I wonder if there would be a possible lawsuit for the cases in which the publishers get the first copyright. . .even on "works for hire". . . ?
Sadly to say, the US Supreme Court just ruled against the case I was supposed to be in [Eldred vs Reno]. . .but at least it was mostly on technical grounds. . .which leaves me possibly to still bring another totally separate case. . .but the lawyers would never let me get a single word into my own case [Hart vs Reno] so I made them take my name off of that case, which then became Eldred vs Reno].
More of Q3)
What do you consider to be an appropriate copyright length, balancing the need to pay content creators, versus the Public Domain and society's claim on it? And, if you think it should be considerably less than it is now, how does the US's Berne Convention agreement effect/influence what can be done?
According to the librarians I know, the average book they choose to put in their libraries is out of print in only five years. Thus a five year term of copyright would be of use to only half of the materials deemed to be of great enough value to be put in a library, not counting the infinitudes of materials that never get that far.
If you continue this equation for another five years, you would protect only 1/4 of all those materials chosen for libraries, not to mention the vast majority of works NOT purchased by libraries.
After 15 years it would be 1/8.
After 20 years it would be 1/16.
This would mean that almost 95% of the materials being protected by a 20 year copyright wouldn't derive any benefit from it, while only those who had already made the most profits would benefit, at the cost of removing those 93.75% from the public domain.
This is NOT a great "cost/benefit ratio" for the public domain.
In 1900 half of all previously copyrighted information was public domain, since the copyrights had expired in about 15 years, and hardly any were ever renewed, because they were out of print.
In 2000 the rule is that there is no longer any requirement to renew copyrights, even if they went out of print six weeks after publication [which happens far more often than one might think].
If you get out a calculator, as I am doing here, you will see that 95 years gives 19 of these 5 year periods, and if every 5 years half of the remaining books in print go OUT of print. . .that would leave. . .
99.9998% of those books once selected for inclusion in libraries being out of print before their copyrights expire.
This is FAR too much copyright protection, even for Hollywood.
Do you really think even the best selling movies of this year are going to be making any real money in 2097, when their copyrights would expire even if not further extended?
Under this kind of copyright term, the Wright Brothers' plans for the first airplane would only just have become public domain, even though the patents expired around 1920....
We have laws that encourage the copying of inventions but not the copying of ideas, artwork, music, or movies.
Why is it so much more important that we have supersonic toasters than supersonic minds???
I think we should choose a copyright term that expires when mathematics tells us that 90% of the profit has been made. . .and I do NOT think that copyright terms should have been changed in mid-term.
The date a copyright expires should be set the day it is issued by the government. . .that is the ONLY way contracts can be properly made as to what authors are selling when they sell their copyrights.
All the people who made "Gone With The Wind" were paid off in 1939 based on a 28 year copyright, with a possible 28 year extension. . .and yet that copyright, which was supposedly going to expire no later than 1996, is now making untold millions of dollars more every time it is on TV, or released in a new medium, such as DVD.
Without the extra copyright extensions of 1976 and 1998, anyone could be making DVDs of "Gone With The Wind". . . and the price would be negligible. . .and so would the "windfall profits" caused by lobbying the government to void a contract with the public and replace it with one that adds another four decades to every copyright in existence in the US, and two decades in many of the other countries of the world.
I have lots more to say about copyright, if you would like me to continue in a later session.
The main thing is that four times we have had "Information Ages"
1455 Johannes Gutenberg
1900 Steam and Electric Presses
1995 Internet/World Wide Web
And each time the response has been to KILL THE "INFORMATION AGE" FOR THE MASSES by telling them that NOW THAT THEY *CAN* MAKE CHEAP COPIES. . .
WE WILL MAKE IT ILLEGAL. . . !
So, the fact that you have your own personal computer and desktop publishing system, complete with CDROM and/or DVD burner does NOT mean you can republish "Gone With The Wind". . .as anyone should have predicted in 1939. . .other than perhaps George Orwell and Aldous Huxley for the Brave New World of 1984 or the "Handicapper General" of Harrison Bergeron.
First, I think it is fairly clear that the current situation is absurd. No one (other than some powerful publishers) is going to argue that. What's the exact right number of years? I don't know. But let's say 12-20 years, or life of the author plus 12, for starters.
As for the Berne Convention and how that might constrain the US -- well, I don't want to sound too flippant, but we're the US and we can do whatever the hell we want. We should negotiate with other countries for a sensible reduction in the length of copyrights.
Q4) Project Gutenberg acceptance in schools
I ran across a very interesting phenomenon recently with Project Gutenberg and the local public school district. My son needed a copy of "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall" for school, and it was not available without a long lead time from bookstores. I looked at Gutenberg, and found it, and printed him up a neat copy. I also printed an extra for him to give to his teacher, so students could copy it and not have to buy the book. I made it quite clear to the teacher that this was a legal operation, etc. However, my son says the teacher shelved the copy, and indicated little interest in providing it to students to copy.
Yes, there are still many places that have a "not invented here" attitude, I have had the same thing happen when I tried to give Project Gutenberg Etexts to libraries in person. Some won't even take them, while others do as yours did, accept them, and then just take them out of circulation. However, I am happy to report that more and more libraries are just fine handing out Project Gutenberg Etexts, and other kinds, as well.
More of Q4)
It seems that free texts such as this would be the perfect thing to use in history courses, where students often buy a book, read it once, and never use it again. School systems could save the students a _lot_ of money this way, and with very little effort on the part of the teacher. Many copy places (such as Kinko's) even will handle distribution and sale of such copies to students, with no effort on the part of the teacher, and a lot more cheaply than buying a book for one use.
It's kind of funny how many people think something is of value only if you actually paid over the counter for it.
Even the media thinks this way. . .there are many who would interview me if I had made as much as AOL or Amazon.com [hee hee], but they won't, just because I don't deal with money.
Sheesh. . . !
Just because we have given away nearly a third of a trillion Etexts is the same kind of reason to give Project Gutenberg publicity as it would be if we had made just one penny for each one we handed out. . . and had thus made $3.33 billion and were scheduled to move past The Donald in the coming decade and past Bill Gates in the next decade.
No. . .THAT would be REAL NEWS. . . .
But doing this free of charge is not the same kind of news.
More of Q4)
Do you have any idea how to convince school systems of the value of this approach? Given the large number of historical texts available, it seems that it would open the doors to teachers use of a lot more original material in classes without much effort or expense.
Sorry, I have given up trying to "convince" anyone of anything. . . .
Unless I am asked to. . . .
The fact is that those of you who use Etexts will take a cosmic leap ahead, and leave the rest behind like Neanderthals.
Any school, city, county, state or nation that adopts the "Unlimited Distribution" model for school and other media is likely to far outstrip those of us who lag behind. . .their books will surpass all others in a matter of a few editions. . .as all the readers correct mistakes and make suggestions for improvements. . .and then write new books based on the materials in what will then be listed as the "old, first generation" Etexts they first used in schools.
The papers written in these schools will be either 10 times better, or 10 times more prolific, since it will only take 1/11th the time to do the library research. . .leaving 10 times as much time and energy to actually use in the grey matter between the ears.
Of course, the fact that the masses could get a REAL education. . . without it being spoon fed to them by bureaucracies is one of the real fears "the system" has about such free flowing information.
I mean, do we REALLY want a "well-educated population of poor people?"
Do we REALLY want a "Third World" who can defeat us at debating tables?
Or even stand on their own???
I wish I could say, or do, more on this question....
At Nupedia, one of the things we hope to do is to make sure that we can make our information available in _many_ formats for schools. CD-Roms? Paper books? It's easy to transform XML into any of those, and so surely someone will do it, and cheap.
Q5) Commercial offshoots
(richardrussell at mail dot com)
A question for both gentlemen: Is there likely to be commercial offshoots of the Nupedia and Gutenberg Projects, similar to the way the various Linux Distributions have grown from
Linux and GNU? Are there any ways planned or envisaged for companies or individuals to profit from these open projects?
PS: note that I consider profit a good thing in general, and this is not a troll or trick question. I would like to see profitable businesses built on the free exchange of knowledge.
One of our fondest hopes at Nupedia is that Yahoo, Google, and other major websites will license our encyclopedia and redistribute it on a massive scale. If they make money off of it, that's fine. It's the freedom that matters.
My apologies for not giving a more detailed answer, but the truth is, if I had waited either for approval or money. . .you would never have heard of me. . . or of Project Gutenberg.
I find it VERY hard to just stop doing what I am doing right now, to try to do something that involved paperwork and money. . .just not my thing. . . .
I hope/think/believe that the world will take care of me for doing my work, but I have had little or no reason to feel the commercial world will ever make me any but the same kind of offers they always have. . .offers that overall have not been worth the time to read and reply to them.
I don't mind profit either, as you may glean from my reply to the question below about my favorite books, etc., but it is much more important, and. . . "profitable" to me in the coin of my own realm, to change/save the world, rather than spend my efforts trying to fur line my nest. . . .
So, the answer is. . .No. . .I won't be spending a lot of time trying to make a profit from Project Gutenberg. . .as I said before. . .I would be pretty happy just to make enough to pretend I had received the average salary for the past 30 years. . . .
Someone is probably going to make a billion dollars from my work, but I doubt if it's going to be me. . . .
Q6) using text in other works
(amoore at openschedule dot org)
It is often claimed that GPL'd code is not used in some projects because it would force the authors of the project to be more open with their code then they would like.
In short, I would like to know how you two believe this concept carries over into the content world. Is their an analogous effect, and is this type of work better or worse off than software in overcoming this effect?
More specifically, I see that the works in Project Gutenberg are primarily (all?) public domain, so they may be referenced, altered, and distributed in quite a few ways with few problems. The content in Nupedia, however, is held under a licence more like the GPL. Do you feel that this restriction will cause that content to be used less by people since it would place restrictions on the way in which they could release and distribute derivative works? As the amount of content released under the Gnu Free Documentation Licence increases, do you think that it will have as easy of a time becoming accepted and used as software released under the GPL, or do you think that the restrictive nature of the license will have a more deleterious effect on the works released under it?
Well, I don't think there is much to be gained by giving people the opportunity to take our articles and make the proprietary. Indeed, one of the most powerful incentives that high quality academic authors have for participating in Nupedia is _precisely_ that no one can take the content and make it proprietary. It's free, and variations on it will be free.
At some point in the very near future, Britannica is going to face a whopper of a build versus buy decision. On the one hand, they can write new articles from scratch, in the old-fashioned proprietary way, which costs a lot of money. Or, on the other hand, they can use Nupedia articles _for free_. The only price is that they will have to keep in the invariant sections (crediting the Nupedia project) and that they will have to make any modifications/improvements free too.
This may cause them to not adopt as quickly. But eventually, the price becomes so high that they'd be foolish (and unprofitable) if they didn't accept our content.
I don't get into fine print and licenses. . .I think that what we have at the top of Project Gutenberg files is way too much, but lawyers would say it is just barely enough. . .I am not a lawyer. . . .
Again, I'm sorry it's such a short answer, just not my cuppa tea. . . .
I am out to change/save the world much more than to profit from it.
If I get the median or average salary for where I live, I will be happy. . .of course. . .the back pay for that would be about a million dollars, even without interest. . . .
But I don't see how licensing our products rather than just giving them away is going to help things rather than hurt them. . . .
For NEW works one wants to share under copyright [and a few dozen of our Project Gutenberg titles ARE done this way] we have our own header. . .which is must more palatable to me than the GNU license, which is so legalese I can hardly stand to read it.
So I try to keep it as simple as possible. . . .
7) Top-10 Copyrighted works you want if you could.
For Mr Hart:
If you could pick any 10 currently copyrighted works, and have them placed in the public domain (specifically for inclusion in Project Gutenberg) what would they be?
I have avoided questions like that for 30 years. . .but since my previous few replies were so short. . .here goes. . .probably won't be 10, though.
The top three would be:
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand [Probably with Anthem and The Fountainhead] [We have already done Anthem, with the permission of the publisher.]
Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury [but he told me, face to face, that he HATES Etexts, as he signed my copy of Fahrenheit 451 after I chased him down after one of his great speeches, so don't get your hopes up.]
The Man in the White Suit [Movie, 1951, Ealing Studios/BBC, starring Alec [Obi-Wan or Old Ben Kenobi] Guiness. I would PAY to get the rights to put that on the Net, if ANYONE will help me!!! Pleeeeeeeze!!!]
Well. . .anything else I would add to that list would probably be a diminution of the quality of that list. . .so I will stop there, having given away so much I have kept secret for all these years.
I never thought _I_ should choose the books for Project Gutenberg, I have always STRONGLY encouraged our 1700 volunteers to choose their own.
Clearly, at Nupedia, we would love to see *more recent* encyclopedias hit the public domain. Some old versions of Britannica are out there -- but they are *so old* that they are practically useless as starting points for new articles.
But imagine if we could start from a "merely" 30 year old encyclopedia, and update it. It would surely make our work a lot easier.
Q8) Integration of the two projects?
by Squirrel Killer
To Jimmy Wales: How tightly to you see integrating Project Gutenberg's materials? Will you cut-and-paste sections from PG into Nupedia? Will the entry on Shakespeare link straight to PG's texts of his work?
To Michael Hart: I'm well aware of your desire to keep PG e-texts as clean ASCII with nothing linking to other projects and the like, but would you link from the PG website (not the text themselves) to the Nupedia project?
Well, most of PG is classic books. Classic books don't really belong directly *inside* an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia is not a library. But, yes, we will certainly seek to link to as many free texts as makes sense. We might even host them on our site at some point.
The trouble with linking is link-rot. . . .
There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people who have asked us to link to them, but the trouble is that most links don't last a year.
I don't know if the readers here know, but Project Gutenberg is the biggest and longest "shoestring project" in all history. . . . We just don't have anyone to monitor the links and keep them up to date. The truth is that I am sitting here in my basement, after blowing $2 on lunch for the latest Hardee's special, and answering this on a keyboard and monitor that are about 20 years old. Of the seven drives I had on this system, three are still working. . .they are all still here physically. . .it's a funny looking homebrew machine that I have to tinker with.
I have become what I always wanted to be. . .a basement inventor.
So. . .back to the answer. . .I don't have ANY secretary, assistant, etc., here, though our Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation has hired a 1/4 time assistant for our Trustee. I do have people who just help me when I ask, but I still answer all the phones, emails, do 99% of the copyright research, put the books online, fix the errors, and all that stuff. . . .
They will never realize how much I am doing until they have to get a dozen people to replace me. . .hee hee!
More of Q8)
As in the previous example, while browsing the various Shakespeare works, will I see a link to his biography on Nupedia?
Nope. . .not until we have real money. . .just too much work to keep the links in working order.
More of Q8)
Personally, I think that this kind of integration is what will really add to Nupedia, as well as giving PG more value in that you can easily find out more about an author. I had been thinking about doing something like this, but just haven't had the time to do it right or the self-confidence to release what crap I did have to the outside world.
I have the kind of self-confidence that allows me to release all sorts of mistakes to the outside world. . .I am dyslexic, but if you think I am going to run this through a spellchecker, sorry. . .I would rather work more with that time and energy on the books. . .that's my REAL goal. . . .
Well, due to the way this worked out, now three weeks later, I might run this through the spellchecker, since I had to download it to play with some of the formatting problem. . .I originally just wrote all these replies "on the fly" as I do with virtually all my email.
Without biasing your answers, I really think that this kind of integration would really be a boon to both projects, and show the benefits of open projects working together to create something greater than the sum of their parts.
I LOVE interdisciplinary stuff, and would encourage this for someone who is into cross-linking things. . .it would be great.
We are making some new experimental web pages, and if I can encourage YOU. . .and anyone who would like to help you. . .I would be ***PROUD*** to give you the space to try it out. . .all you have to do is put:
and then no one can complain that it's not perfect.
I learned a LONG time ago to stop trying to be perfect.
Most of the academic world never seems to learn this.
When I was a perfectionist, my grades were just a low B+, A's in math and science, B's in nearly everything else, a few C's in Latin and German, one in art. . .I love art, but it was years before I had the patience to be good at it.
Before then my best semester in school was half A's and half B's, and that was only because half my classes then were math/science, where I could PROVE I was right. . .hee hee.
Once I decided to just BARELY get the A's, I not only got straight A's, but graduated from one of the great universities in only two years, and since I learned this before I got any grades there. . .I was #1.
Hmmm. . .it's important to know that trying for perfection is not very efficient. . .so I have to leave this in, but it's another thing I have kept out of the public eye for nearly 30 years.
I wonder if you realize how open I am being with my answers?
I have never put any of the personal things in ANY of my interviews before.
are either of you worried about possibly erroneous submissions, whether it be a made up encyclopedia article, or badly translated public domain texts?In addition, what will the final forms of both of your products be? CD/DVD or internet? If internet will there be some kind of registration required?
Nupedia is an open community. We welcome anyone to join our mailing lists and to pitch in to help out. We have an open review process in which _anyone_ can engage in the process of forming a community consensus about an article. This process really works well -- we're very proud of the articles that we've produced so far. It is certainly more rigorous than that applied by any conventional proprietary encyclopedia.
We get error messages all the time that help us create better products, and we LOVE getting them. Most of the time only one person has to spot an error and it's fixed before another runs into it.
THAT's one of the GREAT things about Etexts.
And with comparison programs, you can EASILY see the differences between two Etexts, so you know something is going on, and exactly where it is. . .even if only a period is changed to a comma.
I'm sorry, but I'm a "seat of the pants" kind of professor. . .a "street" professor. . .as I often call myself. . .my only real goal is to get the most books to the most people. . .I'm not going to be the one arguing about whether Hamlet is saying:
"To be or not to be."
"To be, or not to be."
"To be; or not to be."
"To be: or not to be."
To me that is just arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. . .or was it on a pinhead?
You'd be surprised how many great thinkers were tricked into years of speculation on that question. . . .
Q10) Opposition from the 'For Pay' industry?
Have you had any overt opposition from the 'For Pay' publishing industries? If so, what is it like. Do you expect legal challenges?
We have had several legal challenges, from some famous publishers, but since we do our copyright research VERY carefully, we were able to send them packing without much effort.
Some of them, including Merriam-Webster, were VERY kind, as was Caxton, about Ayn Rand's "Anthem," as mentioned above.
We have had several hostile takeover attempts, but since we don't legally exist as an entity, it's hard to take us over. We are all volunteers. It's equally hard to take over our non-profit foundation that hopefully will be supporting us soon.
Presently, contributions are only being solicited from people in: Texas, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Indiana, and Vermont. As the requirements for other states are met, additions to this list will be made and fund raising will begin in the additional states. These donations should be made to the "Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation" and mailed to:
Project Gutenberg Literary Archive
1739 University Ave.
Oxford, MS 38655-4109
International donations are accepted, but we don't know ANYTHING about how to make them tax-deductible, or even if they CAN be made deductible, and don't have the staff to handle it even if there are ways.
We think they are ignoring us, hoping we'll go away. We won't. :-)
11) Encyclopaedias are obsolete
What do you think of the idea of Open Textbooks? For example, books on World History, Biology, Math, Physics etc. that can be used in high schools and for which no copy restrictions are in place? Schools and/or parents and/or students would be able to print the book themselves at a fraction of the cost. Maybe the result wouldn't be so nice-looking, but it would be effective.
_I_, personally, think all textbooks should be contracted as "works for hire" so they would be government documents free of copyright. I am not a lawyer, so I don't know if I used exactly the right term. . .but I think textbooks should be contracted to become public domain when they are written. . . . This would stop all that silliness about changing the page numbers and a few words here and there so the old editions are hard to use alongside the new ones. . . . I'm sure you know what I mean, but if not, let me know, and I will try a few examples.
This would also eliminate the need for millions of students to sit down at the start of every year and put in the same corrections as millions have done for years before, when the answers in the back are wrong. . .which they seem to be. . .all too often.
Etextbooks can be corrected all at once, you just put in your disk and get the corrected copy. . .saving the old one as insurance against 1984ism.
More of Q11)
Think schools in poor neighborhoods, or in the Third World. Think cheap, fast inkjet printers. Think a central repository (or a number thereof) whose contents is certified as "Good For Schools" by some reputable academic body, govt-ran or not.
Actually, inkjet printing is still way to slow and way too expensive, I prefer the $13.88 reader I described above. . .why bother with "dead tree editions" at all. . .the new generations will think that flipping through thousands of paper sheets per year is silly when you could just search them ALL in one single minute. . .and then quote them perfectly in one second. . .leaving all the time and energy for the REAL WORK. . .WHICH GOES ON BETWEEN THE EARS!!!
However, I do recognize that many people still find paper easier, but just as with cellphones enabling Third World countries to start a GREAT phone system without the billions spent on wires, I think they could also start GREAT publishing empires without the millions spent on paper printing.
Why not Etext readers as ubiquitous as cellphones?!?!?!?!?!?!?
I'm all for it. Indeed, the Nupedia encyclopedia might be viewed as one cornerstone of a more global Universal Encyclopedia, which would include textbooks, etc.
At Nupedia, we've decided to _not_ be idle visionaries and dreamers. We view what we are doing as being similar (in the content side) to what the FSF did many years ago with the beginnings of GNU software. We tackle just what we can actually accomplish _today_. You don't start out writing an operating system from scratch. First you write an editor. You write the 'ls' command. You write a mail program. And so on like that.
We're starting with a goal that can actually be accomplished and have a major impact in just 3-5 years time! After that, we surely expect that the energy of the project, and the lessons we have learned about software, etc., to generate dozens of spinoffs in all directions.
[Jimmy Wales also "asked and answered" two questions of his own about Nupedia - ed.]
-1) "What's the deal with Nupedia and 'Gnupedia'?"
Hector, who started the 'gnupedia' project recently wrote this on his mailing list:
"Now, the FSF's plans are give all the support to the Nupedia project. So Nupedia will become the official GNU encyclopedia."
-0) "Nupedia seems to be too centralized and slow moving for me. I understand the need for quality control, but wouldn't it make more sense to have a more bazaar-type free encyclopedia project?"
Maybe so! People who want to get started _today_ on contributing free texts to the world can do so at Wikipedia. All the content is released under the GNU FDL, and it already has over 1000 articles. Short, and maybe not the high quality of Nupedia, but with time? Who knows...
Michael Hart's answers are (C)2000 by Michael S. Hart