In the 1970s and up through the end of the 20th century, Project Gutenberg was the pioneer for digital literature and nonfiction online. It’s been around almost as long as the internet has, and even now when I want to find a text that’s out of copyright, Gutenberg are usually the ones stocking it. All their books are free, including the entire works of Shakespeare and Conan Doyle, and their mission statement cracks my shit up every time I read it:
To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.
THAT’S IT. More books on computers. That is the alpha and omega of their purpose. Of course it can get a lot wordier than that, but essentially that’s it. And I like books and computers, so I am for Project Gutenberg.
I try to keep current on publishing and e-publishing and indy lit, because I have a stake in all of those things, which is how I found out that Project Gutenberg was introducing a new self-publishing branch. This being Project Gutenberg, it’s all about the ebooks, but that suits me fine. For a long time I’ve been hosting free PDFs of my books at Lulu.com, and while Lulu is great they are not the most convenient place to host free PDFs. So I am right in the throes of uploading my PDFs to Gutenberg as we speak. At the moment I’m awaiting “approval”.
It’s very early days for this new site. They don’t host ePub yet, just PDF and a few audio formats for audiobooks. Their site is a little slow because they’re still building it, and they have some quirky requirements, like asking you to upload an author photo for every book you upload. I’ve just been using good old Copperbadge, which they seem to accept without issue.
What struck me as funniest was how they are clearly crowdsourcing their genres. Genres are difficult to define at the best of times, and I can imagine trying to decide what is populous and important enough to be a genre is difficult. I don’t actually expect Magical Realism to be a genre in most websites because it’s a very small one, and usually can be crammed into Literature, Horror, or Fantasy.
But they also didn’t have Satire, which is not exactly a tiny division of the world’s literature, nor did they have “Fiction”. Or “Literary Fiction”.
What do they have? Well, if you’ve written a book about France, you’re golden.
I was going to say I find it hard to believe that there’s more call for Erotic Fiction than for Satire but then I remembered wait…I’m on the internet.
Let me be clear, however: I’m not whining. I’m laughing. I know sometimes with me they sound very similar. I’m not complaining about Project Gutenberg because they have more than proved themselves, and I’m sure someday Magical Realism will totally be on their Category List. I’m just amused that if I wrote Nameless in Esperanto I’d have somewhere to put it, but for now it’s a toss-up between Fantasy and Mythology.
At any rate, if you love ebooks, want some free ones, and can load PDFs on your ereader or other device, Project Gutenberg’s the place to be. And if you love Project Gutenberg, remember to support them with your moneys!