Watching Project Gutenberg

November 22, 2008

Hello! This is Gene Venable. I had a site called ChessWatch for many years, working with KasparovOnline and Internet Chess Club and independently. Now my interests have shifted, though I still play chess obsessively.

The big story of the Internet is the culture availablity explosion that affects us all. Suddenly we have free and low-cost access to aspects of our culture that was heretofore restricted. Books such as the Dialogues of Plato or Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that could once only be purchased at a hefty price or lugged home from the library are now available at no cost.

What is available? How can you use it? What is coming? What are the implications of these changes?

This free information explosion is led by sites such as Wikipedia and Project Gutenberg. The Gutenberg wing of the explosion will be observed from here.

Coming soon: Software that helps you use Project Gutenberg, including FBReader, Gutenbrowse, and others. Write me at with comments and ideas, or post them here.


The Waiting Future

November 22, 2008

Some programs are just waiting to happen. I have a dream application involving the GP and text to speech. One aspect could and should be developed now.

Project Gutenberg can be reached here. It of course features gazillions of free literature, mainly in text form.

A sister project is Librivox. It features spoken word.

Why not combine them? Picture this: You are reading a text and listening to it at the same time — the text scrolls automatically as you read.

I don’t think this would be a terribly difficult programming task. Then, all text becomes a multimedia experience.

You can get an idea what this would be like by going to the Nextup site and downloading a demo copy of TextAloud, a text-to-speech program — in other words, a computer-generated voice reads text to you while the text scrolls.

The difference is that the Gutenberg/Librivox combo would feature human readers. Now, I’m a big fan of computer voices (though the first step is not to use free voices, but buy good ones, such as Samantha or Heather), but many readers would prefer humans.

I am convinced that the combination of voices with scrolling text can create a secondary cultural explosion. Imagine yourself sitting with your portable media device while listening and reading. And the next step beyond that will be incorporating other multimedia into the reading experience, such as pictures and music. But Gutenberg + Librivox could take a big step in the near future. Maybe they are already planning it. They should be.