Articles tagged "literature"

Remembering Michael Hart, ebook pioneer and founder of Project Gutenberg.

Electronic book pioneer and founder of Project Gutenberg, Michael Hart, passed away on Tuesday at his home in Urbana Ill.  Long before eReaders became a prevalent part of our society, Hart, who is described as “an ardent technologist and futurist,” sought ways of making electronic versions of books available to the masses.

In an obituary posted on the Project Gutenberg website, Dr. Gregory B. Newby writes:

Hart was best known for his 1971 invention of electronic books, or eBooks. He founded Project Gutenberg, which is recognized as one of the earliest and longest-lasting online literary projects. He often told this story of how he had the idea for eBooks. He had been granted access to significant computing power at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On July 4 1971, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he decided to type the text into a computer, and to transmit it to other users on the computer network. From this beginning, the digitization and distribution of literature was to be Hart’s life’s work, spanning over 40 years.

In 1998, Mark Frauenfelder wrote a profile of Hart for Wired in which Hart is quoted as saying, “there’s going to be some gizmo that kids carry around in their back pocket that has everything in it – including our books, if they want.”  Early pioneers like Vannevar Bush envisioned electronic devices as far back as 1945 that would store massive volumes of books electronically.  Hart, however, possessed that rare mix of both foresight and gumption to help make this vision a reality.

As expressed in his obituary, making literature “available to all people” was something Hart wished to help others strive towards.  Perhaps the truest expression of Hart’s wish is a commitment to the distribution of ideas across countless platforms, i.e., eBooks, print, blogs, spoken word, etc.  Personally, I feel that in order to make literature available to all people the distribution mechanisms should work in concert with one another and never be limited to one source.  Learning, I believe, should remain impartial to any one file format or distribution mechanism – eBook or otherwise.

With that said, I think that as we enter a new age marked by the proliferation of electronic books and a growing host of eBook reading “gizmo[s],” let’s not forget to take a few moments to honor pioneers like Michael Hart who have remained steadfast in their commitment to the distribution of literature and ideas.

Reluctance to Renown: Nobel Prize Winning Books

We’re big fans of books here at Lulu, so the office has been abuzz today about the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa. The 74-year-old Peruvian writer is the first South American author to win the prestigious award since 1982.

He’s been a very influential political figure throughout his life having written over 30 novels that revolve around life and the balance of power in Latin America (check out his works in the Lulu Marketplace). In the early’ 90s, Vargas Llosa even made a run for the presidency in Peru. He’s highly regarded throughout many Spanish-speaking countries for being a vigorous activist devoted to correcting social wrongs.

So I was struck by this line in an article from The New York Times:

“Like most writers toiling, I have always had the uncomfortable feeling that you never know if what you are doing has any real impact,” Vargas Llosa said.

I hear from writers all the time that are worried about whether their work matters, and here is an author who has reached the utmost prestige of literature with the same concern.

It should be an inspiration to all us, no matter the obstacles, to just get our work out there. You never know if The Swedish Academy might be calling you. I’d love to hear your thoughts.