Smooth Reading FAQ

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DP Official Documentation - Smooth Reading
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This is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about Smooth Reading.


General Information

What is Smooth Reading?

Once books are almost ready to upload to Project Gutenberg, they are usually made available for Smooth Reading so that the Smooth Readers can help find additional errors that might need fixing.

Smooth Reading is reading a text as you would read any e-book, paying a little closer attention and making notations where you spot anything that disrupts the flow of the text. It is reading for smoothness and sense, with an eye out for anything that would jar or jolt an average reader. It is also a great way to get a sneak preview of a book before it is posted to Project Gutenberg.

What isn't Smooth Reading?

Smooth Reading is not Distributed Proofreaders proofreading; you do not need to compare the text with the page scans. It is not professional proofreading or copy-editing; the concept is to preserve what the author wrote. It is not a complete Post-Processing or Post-Processing Verification; it is not necessary to ensure that every minor piece of formatting follows the guidelines.

Why is it useful?

Even after multiple rounds of proofreading and a Post-Processor's tender loving care, texts may still contain errors. Rather than having these issues reported after the book has been posted to Project Gutenberg, it is desirable to correct them before they are uploaded. A fresh perusal, such as that provided by a Smooth Reader, can catch errors that have been overlooked. It also provides valuable feedback to the Post-Processors on how they can improve their finished projects.

Do I need a lot of expertise and experience to do Smooth Reading?

You don't have to be a long-term Distributed Proofreaders volunteer or to have any proofreading experience to do Smooth Reading. If you want to read a full book and help identify possible problems, Smooth Reading may be just what you're looking for!

For Smooth Readers

What are the basic steps for Smooth Reading?

  1. Visit the Smooth Reading Pool and find a book that interests you, then click on the book's title to go to its related Project Page.
  2. Check the Instructions for Smooth Reading section on the Project Page for notes or extra information from the Post-Processor.
  3. Download the file to be Smooth Read: Scroll down the Project Page to the section labelled Smooth Reading. Choose which file type you want to Smooth Read under the "Download a Smooth Reading file" heading, and click on its link (or if you prefer, simply select "Download all formats").
    • The file size of the download is displayed beside the download link so that those with slow connections will know what to expect. If you wish, you may also view Smooth Reading text and HTML in your browser, but there is currently no way for you to annotate these files with any possible errors that you notice if you try to Smooth Read them from the browser.
    • The downloaded HTML and images files will be in "zip" format; the text files will be downloaded unzipped, so you will no longer need to unzip them before starting to Smooth Read. Epub and Mobi formats will be viewable in ereaders that take those file types.
  4. Consider clicking on the [Volunteer to SR] button. This is entirely optional (and revocable). Pressing this button lets the Post-Processor (PPer) who has prepared the book for Smooth Reading know someone is Smooth Reading it, and gives him or her a way to contact you should the need arise. An alternative method is to send the Post-Processor a Private Message (PM) and let him or her know you are smoothing it.
  5. Now for the fun part! Read through the file, noting any errors or other issues using this format: [**your correction or query]. Please just add your comments: do not change the actual text -- all your corrections and suggestions should be made inside [** ] notes. Also, please remember to save as you go along -- you don't want to lose the work you've been doing.
  6. When you are finished Smooth Reading the e-text, or have read as much as you can, "zip" it up and upload it using the Upload a Smooth Read report link which can be found on the book's Project Page in the Smooth Reading section (provided the book's time in the Smooth Reading pool hasn't expired).
  7. If you run out of time, but still want to finish, please let the Post-Processor know before the deadline -- most Post-Processors will happily extend the deadline for you.
  8. Please add a comment at the top of the file, even if you didn't find anything to mark, indicating [** no errors found] and upload your results to the project page so your efforts may be recorded.

What software/tools do I need?

  • A Web browser (it looks like you have one, since you are reading this).
  • A text viewer -- whatever you normally use to read text files: a text editor is the most common (e.g. Notepad, TextEdit, Textpad); a Web browser, word processor, e-Book Reader, or paper print-out will also work.
A text-viewer that allows you to add comments is preferred. However, if you are Smooth Reading in a text viewer that does not allow you to add comments to the text, please consider making notes in the text file which you've loaded into a text editor, so that it can be uploaded to the project page when you are finished. Otherwise please make notes separately and record the exact text and page information with your comment so that the Post-Processor will be able to locate the issue to which you are referring.
Smooth Reading using a mono-spaced font is a good idea. The text version of an e-text may have something that has been aligned based on all characters being the same width — the Table of Contents, for instance.
  • A 'zip' compression program or utility may be needed to open the downloaded file if you choose to Smooth Read the HTML, and will be needed to compress your Smooth Reading report for uploading. Please see the ZIP file wiki page for more information.

What types of projects go through the Smooth Reading (SR) Pool?

It is up to the Post-Processors to decide whether or not to send their books to the Smooth Reading Pool; the Smooth Reading phase is an optional one, and not all projects will go through it.

The e-texts available for Smooth Reading vary from day to day. If you don't find something to your liking one day, please check back again later. You are likely to discover almost anything paddling along in the SR Pool, from Adventure, Juvenile, and Periodicals, all the way through Zoology.

The Smooth Reading pool is not limited to English texts either. You may discover e-texts in Dutch, Esperanto, French, German, Portuguese, or Spanish, etc., as well as exotic combinations such as English with Dakota, English with Scottish Gaelic, German with French, Greek, Ancient (to 1453) with English, Navaho with English, Scots with English, Spanish with English, and Spanish with French.

Can I request a particular e-text to Smooth Read?

As long as it is a project already created at Distributed Proofreaders, yes, you can request a particular e-text. (Requesting books not yet created at Distributed Proofreaders falls under Content Providing.) While it is up to the individual Post-Processor, many do take requests into consideration when deciding whether or not to put their project through the Smooth Reading Pool. Requests can be made at any time, preferably before the project reaches the Post-Processing stage though it is fine to make a request during Post-Processing.

There are a few ways to let the Post-Processor know you are interested:

  • You can post your interest in the project thread.
  • Distributed Proofreaders volunteers can request an e-mail notification when a project becomes available for Smooth Reading; the Post-Processor will be able to see how many people requested Smooth Reading notifications.
    • To receive an e-mail notification: On the Project Page, scroll down to the Event Subscriptions section, and tick the Subscribed? box next to "Project becomes available for Smooth Reading". Don't forget to click the [Update Event Subscriptions] button to save your request.
    • Make sure your e-mail address is correct while you are there (it is displayed just above the Event Subscriptions section).
  • If you know who the Post-Processor is or will be, you could send your request in a Private Message (PM) to them.

What will a Smooth Read text look like?

Smooth Reading files may be available in several formats. All should include at least a plain text format -- these are the easiest files to make notes in, and you may wish to annotate the text file, even if you Smooth Read in one or more of the other formats.

Other possible file types are HTML, epub and mobi. Notes are not easily added to HTML. Some epub and mobi readers may have the ability to make and share notes, but that depends on the reader. If you choose to do your Smooth Reading on one of these formats, please consider making notes in the text file, so that it can be uploaded to the project page when you are finished.

Plain text files cannot show emphasis by changing the weight (bold) or the slant (italics) of the font, so they will usually have underscores showing italics (_like this_), and the PPer's choice of formatting for bold (commonly = or ALL CAPS).

The Smooth Reading Pool page gives an idea of the length of the book in number of pages, but remember, some pages are very short, and others are very long.

What if I accidentally upload the wrong Smooth Read file?

You can upload the right one and the new copy will overwrite the old.

What if I accidentally upload my Smooth Read to the wrong project?

Please contact the Post-Processor whose project you accidentally uploaded the wrong SR to, and let them know what happened. It's a good idea to also let a SR Coordinator know what happened. A SR Coordinator will contact someone who can get your upload removed from the wrong project.

Then, go ahead and upload it to the correct project if it's still in the Smooth Reading Pool. If it isn't, contact the Post-Processor and offer them the information privately.

How long will I get to read?

The Smooth Reading Pool page page will show how many days the project has left before it leaves the pool. If you cannot finish the book in the indicated period, and wish to finish, please send the Post-Processor a Private Message requesting additional time. If you won't have time to finish, go ahead and upload what you've done so far -- Post-Processors appreciate even partial Smooth Reads.

What if I can't start/finish it?

Smooth Reading is a completely obligation-free activity! If you take a text and never get a chance to look at it -- that's okay. If you can read some of it in the time given -- just upload the file with those comments or request additional time from the Post-Processor. A partial Smooth Read is better than nothing. Even just one potential mistake spotted is valuable. As a courtesy to the Post-Processor, please add [**note] where you start and finish.

Can I share a book with another Smooth Reader?

Absolutely. There is no formalized method for sharing a book with another person, but if you know someone who would enjoy sharing a book with you, by all means, divvy it up between you. Or post in the team discussion to see if someone else would like to take one part of a book while you take the other. At the very least, the Post-Processor will get at least a partial Smooth Read for the book. And as with a normal partial Smoothy, [**note] where you start and finish.

What is a mistake?

Mistakes are in the eye of the beholder. Authors were sometimes terrible spellers, editors were sometimes eccentric in style, print-setters sometimes had liquid lunches. Just note anything you *think* might be an issue. The PPer will check against the original text and decide what action (if any) to take.

How do I provide feedback to the PPer?

Place notes or corrections in the file immediately after each error or other problem: [**correction or query]. When you have finished, or have read as far as you can, save your file in .txt format and zip it. Click on the book's title on the Smooth Reading Pool page. This will link you to the Project Page for the book. The page should automatically open at detail level 2. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you should see a section labelled Smooth Reading, and a link to Upload a Smooth Read text. Click on this link and navigate to where the Smooth Read zip file is located on your system, and then click on the Upload button.

File names should be reasonably short, have no spaces or special characters other than _ and -, contain only numbers 0-9 and/or lower case letters, and use the suffix .zip only. Do not use .ZIP, .Zip or try to upload .tar files or other compression formats, as they simply will not work.

What if I did not find any mistakes?

This is also valuable information and you should let the Post-Processor know. You can do this by putting a [**note] at the beginning of the file and upload it.

I have this friend...

Great! This process is especially good for people who like 'regular' proof-reading or reading Gutenberg texts. Anyone can look at the Smooth Reading pool page, and download files -- they don't have to be a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer. To return comments, however, they will need to register, or know the Post-Processor's email address (and be sure that the Post-Processor is happy to receive files by email!). Or you will have to upload their commented file for them.

For Post-Processors

Is my book suitable/will it benefit?

Yes! -- Even if your book is extremely specialized and took months to crawl through the proofing rounds, it may be of interest to a Smooth Reader. As for benefit -- any mistakes picked up before posting to PG are good! And if no errors are found; that's a big gold star for your Post-Processing style!

Where do I find Smooth Readers?

From the Project Page, scroll down below the Project Comments to the section labeled Smooth Reading so that it will appear on the Smooth Reading pool page, which has been specially designed for this. You will be able to choose to upload a project to the SR Pool for between 7 and 42 days. You can upload multiple formats zipped together in a single zip, but please continue to include a text file for those with limited bandwidth, or who just prefer to Smooth Read the text file.

You can also advertise your project in the Smoooth Readers team thread or in the project thread, and possibly other places. If your project is in a language other than English, or has significant parts that are in another language, it may be helpful to advertise it in that language's team thread.

It is very helpful to post a comment with the SR upload indicating special points of interests or value in the book. New listings, all of which include the PPers' comments, are promoted regularly in the Smoooth Readers team thread. If you don't show that you're excited about it, why should a reader?

How much Post-Processing should I do first?

Ideally, you should complete the .txt version, and submit this for Smooth Reading before generating HTML. This means that you have just a single file to make changes in. If your project has images, this is a great time to fix them up, while the Smooth Reading is going on. Or swap to a second project.

What format should it be in?

At a minimum, please include a text file. This is not only good for those who are on slow or metered connections, but some Smooth Readers prefer the text version. Moreover, if Smooth Readers are reading from an ereader or browser, it is useful for them to be able to make annotations in the text file loaded in a text editor.

Other allowed formats are:

  • HTML (either .htm or .html) + images -- The HTML must be zipped with its images folder in order to display correctly for separate download. Even if the project has no illustrations and you don't have an images folder for the Smooth Reading version, the HTML must be zipped.
  • epub
  • mobi

Please include all available approved formats: Smooth Readers are often hesitant to ask for additional formats even if the PPer is willing to make them available on request.

DP is currently not producing any LaTeX projects, and pdf files are not enabled at this time.

Should I include the .bin file?

If you have Post-Processed your project using guiguts, please do not include the .bin file. This is useful to the PPer and the PPVer, but is of no use to the Smooth Readers. In addition, when correctly generated from a concatenated text file that includes proofers' usernames, it is considered to be a violation of the privacy policy to make this information publicly available.

File names and available formats

File names should be reasonably short, and contain only lower case letters, the numbers 0-9, - and/or _, and the one dot separating the filename from the extension. No spaces or other special characters not already mentioned. It should be zipped using a program that will zip it without any invisible files from the operating system, and have a .zip extension. Do not use .ZIP, .Zip or try to upload .tar files or other compression formats, as they simply will not work.

Text Only

Acceptable character encodings are ASCII, ISO-Latin-1, and UTF-8. Latin-1 is assumed unless the filename has utf8 appended to it. Make sure your filename matches the character encoding used. Some Smooth Readers use software for Smooth Reading that may require them to switch encoding manually before opening a UTF-8 file, in order for the file not to contain incomprehensible characters. It is also helpful to mention in your upload notes if your file is not Latin-1. If your file is UTF-8 encoded, please ensure it does not have a Byte-Order Mark (BOM).

Multiple versions of the text file may be uploaded for SR, and each will be available both for download and for viewing online. However, if there are any accented characters, only the UTF-8 version will display the accents correctly for viewing online.


HTML + images may be included in the zip uploaded to the SR pool, and will be available for separate download as well as viewing online.

For the HTML to display properly for separate download, it must be zipped together with its images folder. If your project has no illustrations, and you do not have an images folder for the Smooth Reading version, the HTML must still be zipped. The HTML extension can be either .htm or .html. The zipped HTML extension must be .zip.

Epub and Mobi

Both Epub (.epub) and Mobi (.mobi) are already zipped files, and everything is self-contained. These file types are available for download, only.


LaTeX formatted and PP'd files are not currently being produced at DP, and PDF format is not currently enabled.

How do I provide a file or files for Smooth Reading?

After you have prepared the .txt version as noted in How much Post-Processing should I do first?, go to the Project Page (reachable by clicking on the title of the book, in your PP page). At detail level 2, you will see some links at the bottom of the page allowing you to upload a book to make it available for Smooth Reading.

You can choose any number of days between 7 and 42 for the beginning time in the pool. Choose which length of time you wish to submit your project for, and click on that link. It will take you to a page where you can browse for the zip to upload, and type in some comments that will be shown to Smooth Readers. If you have any special instructions (see below), or just want to describe the contents of the book in more detail, add them here.

If you wish to provide HTML, Epub and Mobi formats, also, they can be included in the zip you upload to the project when you put it into the pool.

Special instructions: these might be about what to mark up or not, but hopefully not HOW to mark up. If the desired SR correction markup is always asked to be done the same single standard way (described elsewhere in this document) then once a Smooth Reader has learnt it once, on one project, they will be ready to Smooth Read ANY project.

What if I accidentally put the wrong project in the Smooth Reading pool?

It depends on how close the project you put into the Smooth Reading pool is to being ready for SR. If it's really close (i.e. you'll have it ready in a day), replace the text file for the project you meant to upload with a file that says what happened, let a Smooth Reading coordinator know, and it would be a good idea to post in the team discussion saying what happened.

If it's not very close to being ready, and there is similarity enough in titles to be confusing, let a Smooth Reading coordinator know, and post in the team discussion to let the SRers know what happened. A SR coordinator will arrange to have it removed.

Can I replace just a single file?

No; when a replacement zip is uploaded to the project page, the "smooth" directory that contains all the different formats is recreated. If you need to replace a file, you will have to re-upload everything.

How long will it take?

When you upload a project for SR, you can set how long you wish it to be available for between 7 and 42 days. The default is 21 days, but can be easily customozed.

If a SRer asks for more time than is remaining, you can easily extend the time for an additional 1-42 days. Please use this feature carefully. It can be very easy to put a book in the Smooth Reading Pool for far longer than you originally intended.

When deciding how long to put your project in for SR, take into consideration:

  • Any known special deadlines you may have (i.e. an upcoming vacation, a special day).
  • Size--not in pages (because page size can vary widely) but in kilobytes. The larger the file, the more time the Smooth Readers will need to finish reading it.
A good starting estimate is to divide the size of the text file in kb (not zipped) by 25 for the number of days to read plus about 5 days lead time. (Based on approximately 300 words per page at 16-17 pages per day, with an average of 5 characters per word).

Can I remove my book from the Smooth Reading Pool

No, you cannot remove your book from the pool before the deadline, or decrease the amount of time a book is available for. This would be unfair to the Smooth Readers who are working on your book already -- not all Smooth Readers use the "Volunteer" button to officially sign up for SRing a book.

What do I do with the feedback?

You will need to consider any issues raised by the [**correction or query] notes and deal with them as you would with any proofers' or formatters' notes. Some genuine scannos or missing words may need to be changed. Other 'errors' may be a deliberate author / editor mistake which you will take a different action on. You do NOT have to act on a Smooth Reader's suggestions if you don't want to. Use your best judgment, your knowledge of DP & PG guidelines and ask questions in the PPing forum if need be.

Can I get non-DPers involved?

Yes! The Smooth Reading page has deliberately been made accessible to those not signed in so that you can, if you wish, promote your almost-finished book on relevant mailing lists that you are a member of, or to observant friends. Do Not Spam Your Book. Don't forget that Smooth Readers without DP accounts cannot upload their commented text, so you will need to ask them to join up, or else provide them with an email address to contact you through.

Say "Thank you"

It's not an official requirement to say it, but SRers often appreciate it, and like to know that their efforts were helpful.

To comment or request edits to this page, please contact srjfoo.

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