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Title: ERPANET Case Study: Project Gutenberg
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Copyright (C) ERPANET 2004

Table of Contents

Executive Summary                                            4
Chapter 1: The ERPANET Project                               5
Chapter 2: Scope of the Case Studies                         6
Chapter 3: Method of Working                                 8
Chapter 5: Details and circumstances of the Interviews       10
Chapter 6: Analysis                                          11
Perception and Awareness of Digital Preservation             11
Preservation Activity                                        12
Compliance Monitoring                                        14
Digital Preservation Costs                                    14
Future Outlook                                                14
Chapter 7: Conclusions                                        16

Executive Summary
freely available to the public. The project philosophy is that the
greatest value of computers is not their computing power, but rather
their potential for the searchable storage and retrieval of library
materials. The premise for the project is that any object - whether
text, picture, sound or 3D image - that can be entered into a computer
can be replicated indefinitely. The eBooks generated by Project
local servers around the world. This case study differs form many other
ERPANET studies in that the project is volunteer-driven. As such, there
are no financial or business incentives to preserve the eBooks. The
real incentive lies in the belief that literary works in the public
domain should be freely accessible to as many people as possible for as
long as possible. By digitising everything in 'plain vanilla ASCII' as
well as many other formats, the eBooks are readable by over 99% of
computer operating systems. By avoiding proprietary formats whenever
survival of the bit streams of the eBooks. The combination of open
formats and the proliferation of copies downloaded around the world
are still accessible far into the future.

Chapter 1: The ERPANET Project
The European Commission and Swiss Confederation funded ERPANET Project
(1) (Electronic Resource Preservation and Access Network) works to
enhance the preservation of cultural and scientific digital objects
through raising awareness, providing access to experience, sharing
policies and strategies, and improving practices. To achieve these
goals ERPANET is building an active community of members and actors,
bringing together memory organisations (museums, libraries and
archives), ICT and software industry, research institutions, government
organisations, entertainment and creative industries, and commercial
sectors. ERPANET constructs authoritative information resources on
state-of-the-art developments in digital preservation, promotes
training, and provides advice and tools.

ERPANET consists of four partners and is directed by a management
committee, namely Seamus Ross (HATII, University of Glasgow; principal
director), Niklaus Bütikofer (Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv), Hans
Hofman (Nationaal Archief/National Archives of the Netherlands), and
Maria Guercio (ISTBAL, University of Urbino). At each of these nodes a
content editor supports their work, and Peter McKinney serves as a
co-ordinator to the project. An Advisory Committee with experts from
various organisations, institutions, and companies from all over Europe
gives advice and support to ERPANET.

Chapter 2: Scope of the Case Studies
While theoretical discussions on best practice call for urgent action
to ensure the survival of digital information, it is organisations and
institutions that are leading the drive to establish effective digital
preservation strategies (2). In order to understand the processes these
organisations are undertaking, ERPANET is conducting a series of case
studies in the area of digital preservation. In total, sixty case
studies, each of varying size, will investigate awareness, strategies,
and technologies used in an array of organisations. It is anticipated
that upwards of 500 organisations, institutions and public bodies will
eventually contribute to this research. The resulting corpus should
make a substantial contribution to our knowledge of practice in digital
preservation, and form the foundation for theory building and the
development of methodological tools. The value of these case studies
will come not only from the breadth of sectors included, but also
through the depth at which they will explore the issues.

ERPANET is deliberately and systematically approaching disparate
sectors from industry and business to facilitate discussion in areas
that have traditionally been unconnected. With these case studies
ERPANET will broaden the scope and understanding of digital
preservation through research and discussion. The case studies will be
published to improve the approaches and solutions being developed and
to reduce the redundancy of effort. The interviews are identifying
current practice not only in-depth within specific sectors, but also
cross-sectorally: what can the publishing sector learn from the
aeronautical sector? Eventually we aim to use this comparative data to
produce intra-sectoral overviews.
This cross-sectoral fertilisation is a main focus of ERPANET as laid
out in its Digital Preservation Charter (3). It is of primary
importance that disparate groups are given a mechanism through which to
come together as best practices for digital preservation are
established in each sector.

The principal aims of the study are to:
* build a picture of methods and match against context to produce best
* accumulate and make accessible information about practices;
* identify issues for further research;
* enable cross-sectoral practice comparisons;
* enable the development of assessment tools;
* create material for training seminars and workshops; and,
* develop contacts.

Potential sectors have been selected to represent a wide scope of
information production and digital preservation activity. Each sector
may present a unique perspective on digital preservation.
Organisational and sectoral requirements, awareness of digital
preservation, resources available, and the nature of the digital object
created place unique and specific demands on organisations. Each of the
case studies is being balanced to ensure a range of institutional
types, sizes, and locations.

The main areas of investigation included:
* perception and awareness of risk associated with information loss;
* understanding how digital preservation affects the organisation;
* identifying what actions have been taken to prevent data loss;
* the process of monitoring actions; and,
* mechanisms for determining future requirements.

Within each section, the questions were designed to bring
organisational perceptions and practices into focus. Questions were
aimed at understanding impressions held on digital preservation and the
impact that it has had on the respective organisation, exploring the
awareness in the sector of the issues and the importance that it was
accorded, and how it affected organisational thinking. The participants
were asked to describe, what in their views, were the main problems
associated with digital preservation and what value information
actually had in the sector. Through this the reasons for preserving
information as well as the risks associated with not preserving it
became clear.

The core of the questionnaire focused on the actions taken at corporate
level and sectoral levels in order to uncover policies, strategies, and
standards currently employed to tackle digital preservation concerns,
including selection, preservation techniques, storage, access, and
costs. Questions allowed participants to explore the future commitment
from their organisation and sector to digital preservation activities,
and where possible to relate their existing or planned activities to
those being conducted in other organisations with which they might be

Ten organisations in each sector, and three people within each
organisation are targeted for each study. In reality this proved to be
problematic. Even when organisations are identified and interviews
timetabled, targets often withdrew just before we began the interview
process. Some withdrew after seeing the data collection instrument, due
in part to the time/effort involved, and others (we suspect) dropped
out because they realised that the expertise was not available within
their organisation to answer the questions. The perception of risks
that might arise through contributing to these studies worried some
organisations, particularly those from sectors where competitive
advantage is imperative, or liability and litigation issues especially
worrying. Non-disclosure agreements that stipulated that we would
neither name an organisation nor disclose any information that would
enable readers to identify them were used to reduce risks associated
with contributing to this study. In some cases the risk was still
deemed too great and organisations withdrew.

Chapter 3: Method of Working
Initial desk-based sectoral analysis provides ERPANET researchers with
essential background knowledge. They then conduct the primary research
by interview. In developing the interview instrument, the project
directors and editors reviewed other projects that had used interviews
to accumulate evidence on issues related to digital preservation. Among
these the methodologies used in the Pittsburgh Project and InterPARES I
for target selection and data collection were given special attention.
The Pittsburgh approach was considered too narrow a focus and provided
insufficient breadth to enable full sectoral comparisons. On the other
hand, the InterPARES I data collection methodology proved much too
detailed and lengthy, which we felt might become an obstacle at the
point of interpretation of the data. Moreover, it focused closely on
recordkeeping systems within organisations.

The ERPANET interview instrument takes account of the strengths and
weaknesses from both, developing a more focussed questionnaire designed
to target a range of strategic points in the organisations under
examination. The instrument (4) was created to explore three main areas
of enquiry within an organisation: awareness of digital preservation
and the issues surrounding it; digital preservation strategies (both in
planning and in practice); and future requirements within the
organisation for this field. Within these three themes, distinct layers
of questions elicit a detailed discovery of the state of the entire
digital preservation process within participants' institutions. Drawing
on the experience that the partners of ERPANET have in this method of
research, another important detail has been introduced. Within
organisations, three categories of employee were identified for
interview: an Information Systems or Technology Manager, Business
Manager, and Archivist / Records Manager. In practice, this usually
involved two members of staff with knowledge of the organisation's
digital preservation activities, and a high level manager who provided
an overview of business and organisational issues. This methodology has
allowed us to discover the extent of knowledge and practice in
organisations, to understand the roles of responsibility and problem
ownership, and to appreciate where the drive towards digital
preservation is initiated within organisations.

The task of selecting the sectors for the case studies and of
identifying the respective companies to be studied is incumbent upon
the management board. They compiled a first list of sectors at the very
beginning of the project. But sector and company selection is an
ongoing process, and the list is regularly updated and complemented.
The Directors are assisted in this task by an advisory committee (5).

Chapter 4: Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg produces free electronic versions of literature and
reference works that are in the public domain. As the project has only
a few paid staff members (6), the majority of eBooks are scanned and
edited by volunteers. Available via the Internet since 1994, Project
Gutenberg is the oldest producer of freely accessible, electronic books
(eBooks). From 1971 until 1997 over 1,100 eBooks were created. In the
first eleven weeks of 2004 alone, three hundred new eBooks have been
generated. There are now over 13,380 eBooks available and the
production of eBooks is constantly increasing. Project Gutenberg is
dedicated to making these resources available to the general public in
a form that the vast majority of the computers, programs and people can
easily read (ASCII). However, most texts are available in a wide range
of formats for users to select.

New features have been added recently to Project Gutenberg's core
services. Specifically, the new Radio Gutenberg (7) makes audio and
video files accessible to the public for download as well as broadcasts
on their two radio channels and Gutenberg Music (8) makes digitised
music sheets accessible. This project focuses only on the preservation
of the eBooks.

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation (PGLAF) is a
recognised charitable organization by the US Internal Revenue Service.

Chapter 5: Details and circumstances of the Interviews
Michael Hart, Founder and Director of Project Gutenberg and Dr. Greg
Newby, CEO of the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
completed the questionnaire and participated in email communications
between March and April 2004.

Chapter 6: Analysis
This section presents an analysis of the data collected during the case
study. It is organised to mirror the sequence of topics in the
* Perception and Awareness of Digital Preservation
* Preservation Activity
* Compliance Monitoring
* Digital Preservation Costs
* Future Outlook

Perception and Awareness of Digital Preservation

Project Gutenberg is one of the earliest web sites on the internet and
one of the earliest digital libraries in existence. They have been
active in creating eBooks for over thirty years and are aware of the
social benefits to be gained through preserving these resources for
public access. Project Gutenberg ensures that all eBooks are available
in plain text and other open formats to avoid obsolescence. The eBooks
are uploaded to two main servers (9) and can then be mirrored by over
thirty sites worldwide. The combination of open formats and many copies
should ensure that access to these digitised literary works is
preserved for the long-term.

The Main Problems

The major long-term problem lies in ensuring that copyright laws are
respected for all of the digitised works made accessible by Project
Gutenberg. Mirror sites exist in many countries around the world and,
as such, ensuring that copyright laws are respected in each can be
difficult. However, no eBook will be posted to the main site in the
U.S. without gaining copyright clearance.  Recent extensions to
copyright laws in the U.S. and Europe have presented new challenges for
the Project Gutenberg team. This is because no new works will be
released to the public domain until 2018. Hart believes that these
extensions to copyright laws benefit 'very few copyright holders at the
expense of universal access to literature and knowledge'(10). These
changes will impact the amount of research that needs to be done before
an eBook can be digitised and made available.

Asset Value and Risk Exposure

Project Gutenberg exists to make literature and reference materials
freely accessible to the general public in a digitised format. As
mentioned above, Michael Hart believes that free access to literary
works is vital for enabling the sharing of knowledge, art, music and

Regulatory Environment

Project Gutenberg must adhere to U.S. laws involving operation as a
not-for-profit corporation. However, these regulations are not sector
specific. Project Gutenberg must be exceedingly careful to respect U.S.
copyright laws regarding the works that they digitise and make
available over the Internet. However, once a publication has been
verified as being in the public domain, there are no other legal
restrictions affecting Project Gutenberg.

Preservation Activity

Policies and Strategies

Project Gutenberg scans literary works and employs OCR technology to
create eBooks. In some cases, eBooks are typed in by hand. The eBooks
are then edited by a team of volunteer proof-readers. There are
procedures and guidelines available online for volunteers to consult
when scanning and editing texts for Project Gutenberg to ensure that
all eBooks follow a standard format. Once the eBook has been produced,
it is uploaded to two main servers. The eBook is made accessible via
the official Project Gutenberg website and the Internet Archive site
and on over thirty mirror sites around the world. As there are no
access or distribution issues, Project Gutenberg encourages users to
save copies of the eBooks to CD or DVD.

Project Gutenberg believes that by generating a multitude of versions -
those stored on the main servers, on local servers (through mirror
sites) and those downloaded to CD and DVD - will ensure that the bit
stream of the literary work is preserved for access. This embodies the
philosophy of the LOCKSS strategy. LOCKSS 'uses the caching technology
of the web to collect pages of journals as they are published, allowing
libraries to take physical custody of selected electronic titles they
purchase'(11).  LOCKSS was inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson
who said "let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence
them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of
time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them
beyond the reach of accident." (12)


Project Gutenberg aims to make digitised versions of popular literature
and reference materials in the public domain freely accessible to the
general public. As copyright expires, publications can be freely
replicated and distributed. Many of these works are out of print. By
digitising the out of print works, Project Gutenberg feels that they
are saving the publications from 'obscurity and ultimate oblivion'(13).
Basically, all of the texts can be classified into three categories:
light literature (such as Alice in Wonderland), heavy literature (such
as Shakespeare and Dante) and references (such as Roget's Thesaurus).
Mathematical and scientific works are also made available including the
Human Genome. There are no real restrictions to what Project Gutenberg
will make accessible. As long as the material is in the public domain,
they can be digitised and submitted to Project Gutenberg. However,
Project Gutenberg aims to benefit the widest possible audience and
therefore prioritise the digitisation of popular literature and
reference materials rather than extremely specialised works. Project
Gutenberg already have texts in over 31 languages and are especially
keen to increase their multilingual holdings.


Project Gutenberg already has numerous plain text files that are 20-30
years old. In that time, many file formats have come and gone while
plain text is still readable on virtually all computers. The use of
plain text will also help to insure against future obsolescence. All
Project Gutenberg eBooks are created as plain ASCII text files. This
means that people with 'Apples and Ataris all the way to the old
homebrew Z80 computers' (14) as well as Mac and UNIX users are all able
to read the text files. Any open format can be submitted but the
Project Gutenberg team will also generate plain ASCII (15) text files.
Project Gutenberg encourages users to created new formats from the
plain text files to suit their individual needs. Once the eBook has
been generated and edited by volunteers, it is uploaded to two main
servers. The first is the Project Gutenberg site itself and the other
is the Internet Archive site. From this point, mirror sites can
download the redundant files to their own sites and store them on their
own servers.

Project Gutenberg uses the unique eBook number as the file name.
Therefore, if the eBook is the 10001 plain text file created it will be
named 10001. txt. Project Gutenberg will accept as many open file
formats as volunteers are willing to submit, but will also generate a
plain text version. Additional versions in other formats will be named
accordingly but with different file extensions (e.g., html, pdf, xml).
Each eBook has its own subdirectory that contains all versions of the

Project Gutenberg have volunteers representing a wide range of sectors
(cultural heritage, government and higher education). Through these
affiliations, they keep up to date with digital preservation
developments. Project Gutenberg staff have ties with many
organisational leaders and informal collaborations on best practices
are common.


The eBooks are catalogued by Project Gutenberg volunteers to include
the author, the author's dates of birth & death, language, eBook
number, and the Library of Congress classification to enhance online
searching capabilities. As the publications that Project Gutenberg aims
to make accessible are already in the public domain, restricting access
is not really an issue. Project Gutenberg is mirrored in over thirty
sites around the world. As such, they cannot accurately estimate the
number of downloads that take place across all of the mirrored sites,
but state that the equivalent of 1 million eBooks are downloaded each
month from the main central server (16). In an effort to increase
accessibility by non-English users, eBooks can be generated and
submitted in any language.

Project Gutenberg uses Dublin Core to describe their electronic
resources to enable resource discovery.

Compliance Monitoring

There are no external requirements that Project Gutenberg must meet.
However, Distributed Proof-readers (17) work to edit and ensure that
the eBook content is as accurate as possible. The eBook goes through
two rounds of proofreading where it may be examined by hundreds of
volunteers. Once the eBook has been proofread, it goes to the
post-processing stage. 'The ultimate goal of post-processing is to
create a plain text eBook with consistent formatting throughout, which
contains as few errors as possible, and which accurately reflects the
intentions of the author' (18). Project Gutenberg citations - for
example in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC)- appear as their
own editions and, as such, do not comply with any particular paper
edition. In some cases Project Gutenberg editions are listed as the
only edition in existence. Project Gutenberg makes every effort to
ensure that they comply with U.S. copyright laws and encourages all
volunteers to verify that materials proposed for digitisation are in
the public domain. Guidance and advice on undertaking this research is
provided on the project website. However, the Project Gutenberg team
are ultimately responsible for verifying public domain status and
require that a copy of the title page be submitted for each proposed
publication to assist in this process.

Digital Preservation Costs

A registered charity, Project Gutenberg relies on donations to pay
their few dedicated staff members and for operational costs. Nearly 100
per cent of the operational budget is focused on preservation. In terms
of storage costs, the project founder believes that as disk drives
become larger and cheaper, the price of putting eBooks on computers
will become negligible (19).

Future Outlook

Project Gutenberg has already been implemented in Australia and Europe.
Project Gutenberg of Canada is being founded in the near future.
Project Gutenberg also hopes "to also create such projects in Africa,
Asia, and other regions. In particular, they hope to create projects by
which e-books can reach the masses via digital radio links to
solar-powered PDAs. In addition, Project Gutenberg will be adding more
multimedia e-books: paintings, sculptures, music, audio e-books,
movies, etc., along with a wider variety of text formats." (20)

Project Gutenberg will continue digitising literary works and aim to
offer over 10,000,000 eBooks in over 100 languages by the time they
celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2021. Project Gutenberg aim to
enable the migration on request of their plain text files. This would
mean that the plain text version could be generated in any type of file
requested on the fly. This is currently in test mode. Project Gutenberg
is also investigating creating the eBooks as born XML to allow easier
creation of other formats on demand (21).

Chapter 7: Conclusions

As the first and largest collection of eBooks, Project Gutenberg has
been preserving electronic publications and making them accessible for
over thirty years.  By adhering to strict guidelines regarding the
format of the eBook (plain text) for access and readability, Project
Gutenberg has also ensured that their electronic resources can be
preserved and migrated easily to other formats as needed.  By uploading
the eBooks to two main servers and by mirroring the Project Gutenberg
database on sites around the world they ensure that backup versions of
the eBooks are readily available if necessary. This multi-distributed
approach is similar to the preservation strategy Lots of Copies Keeps
Stuff Safe (LOCKSS) that is gaining worldwide interest. The combination
of open formats and the proliferation of copies downloaded around the
world should ensure that Project Gutenberg eBooks currently in
existence and indeed any new eBooks created, are still accessible far
into the future.

End Notes:

(1) ERPANET is a European Commission funded project (IST-2001-32706).
See www.erpanet.org for more details and available products.
(2) Chapters 2 and 3 are taken from 'Cross-sectoral Development of
Digital Preservation Strategies: ERPANET and the Expansion of
Knowledge', given at Preservation of Electronic Records. New Knowledge
and Decision-making, Symposium 2003.
(3) The Charter is ERPANET's statement on the principles of digital
preservation. It has been drafted in order to achieve a concerted and
co-ordinated effort in the area of digital preservation by all
organisations and individuals that have an interest and share these
(4) See Appendix. We include the questionnaire to encourage comment and
in the hope that other groups conducting similar research can use the
ideas contained within it to foster comparability between different
(5) See www.erpanet.org for the composition of this committee.
(6) Paid staff are financed through donations.
(9) The two main servers are located at ibiblio: the public's library
(10) From an interview with Michael Hart: The Second Gutenberg
(11) http://lockss.stanford.edu/projectdescbrief.htm
(12) Jefferson, Thomas. [1791] 1984. Thomas Jefferson to Ebenezer
Hazard, Philadelphia, February 18, 1791. In Thomas Jefferson: Writings:
Autobiography, Notes on the State of Virginia, Public and Private
Papers, Addresses, Letters, edited by Merrill D. Peterson. New York:
Library of America (taken from LOCKSS website
(13) From an interview with Michael Hart: The Second Gutenberg
(14) http://promo.net/pg/history.html
(15) American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII)
(16) From an interview with Michael Hart: The Second Gutenberg
(17) Distributed Proofreaders
(18) Post-proofing FAQ
(19) From an interview with Michael Hart: The Second Gutenberg
(20) Michael Hart quoted in Project Gutenberg Progresses by Paula J.
Hane, Information Today Volume 21 No. 5
(21) Project Gutenberg Progresses by Paula J. Hane in Information Today
Volume 21 No. 5 http://www.infotoday.com/it/may04/hane1.shtml

(c) ERPANET 2004

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