More than 100,000 people from around the world have helped to proofread 25,000 books for Project Gutenberg, the online ebook distribution service. The achievement is made even more remarkable by the fact that all of the proofreaders were volunteers.
Project Gutenberg provides scanned versions of books in the public domain, free of charge. The website was established in 1971, with the aim of archiving cultural works and making them accessible to the community. To ensure that the ebooks are without errors, the Distributed Proofreaders (DP) project was set up, and as of April 2013 DP volunteers have proofread 25,000 books for Project Gutenberg.
Volunteers are presented with a scanned image of the page of a book, alongside the corresponding OCR page. The volunteer then checks the page, before returning the text to the DP website. A second volunteer repeats the process, before the book goes through two formatting rounds. Once the entire volume is ready, it is converted into an ebook, and then submitted to the Project Gutenberg archive.
The work is essential because the computer scanners that record the initial pages often make mistakes. The 25,000th book to enter the Project Gutenberg archive, courtesy of DP, was ‘The Art and Practice of Silver Printing’, by H. P. Robinson and Captain Abney, and the ‘silver’ moment will hopefully be superseded by a ‘golden’ achievement in the near future.