Uses of Project Gutenberg etexts

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Distributed Proofreaders has a rule that its products should at least end up at Project Gutenberg. But what happens with etexts once they arrive there? Who uses Project Gutenberg etexts and how?

Another topic is: what are the possible uses for Project Gutenberg etexts.

Further enhancement and distribution

There are many websites that distribute Project Gutenberg etexts. Some mention the project, others act as if it never existed. Some enhance the etexts by transforming them into other formats or by adding in mark-up, others present them as they got them.



Book clubs

Notably, the BBC once had a book reading club that exclusively used Project Gutenberg etexts.

Print On Demand

It would appear that several people use Print On Demand (POD) services to republish our etexts as soon as they appear on the Project Gutenberg servers. There have been reports about this happening in the shape of ebooks, pbooks and abooks.

We suspect this, because Content Providers who had difficulty locating any edition of out-of-print public domain works suddenly saw them pop up in a different form once they had been republished at Project Gutenberg. Titles like "Forty Years in South China" and "The Curious Case of Lady Purbeck" and "De Zoon van Dik Trom" suddenly appeared in for-profit form on the web after they appeared on Project Gutenberg. (The latter is part 2 of a six part series, which is sort of a dead give away, since part 1 has not been republished in the same form.)



Other publishers

Shady eBay sellers

Many successful open source-like projects have experienced this, and Project Gutenberg is no exception; some resellers strip all mention of the fact that Project Gutenberg books can be downloaded for free (and the DVD can often also be gotten for free) and sell CDs with thousands of ebooks to those who are unaware of the many great resources of free content and software. A perfectly acceptable use of our etexts of course, but some people get upset about it.


Modern day authors

"If" yada yada, he could only have done it by "standing on the shoulders of giants", somebody (whoever) wrote. Or not. But the sentiment is clear: no author writes in a vacuum. Everybody remixes what they have encountered in the past, and publish the resulting amalgam as their own. Some of these authors even acknowledge their use of Project Gutenberg etexts as a source.

For instance, Dan Brown acknowledges Project Gutenberg in his bestseller The Da Vinci Code: "For their generous assistance in the research of the book, I would like to acknowledge the Louvre Museum, the French Ministry of Culture, Project Gutenberg, Bibliothèque Nationale, the Gnostic Society Library, the Department of Paintings Study and Documentation Service at the Louvre, Catholic World News, Royal Observatory Greenwich, London Record Society, the Muniment Collection at Westminster Abbey, John Pike and the Federation of American Scientists, and the five members of Opus Dei (three active, two former) who recounted their stories, both positive and negative, regarding their experiences inside Opus Dei." (Source: Search Inside This Book at


It would appear that many linguists use Project Gutenberg etexts as the raw data for their analyses. Search Google for instance for ""project gutenberg"" (OUP being the Oxford University Press website).

Real people

Several people have reported anecdotes at Project Gutenberg related fora of readers who approached them to tell them that they had read a Project Gutenberg etext. Probably too numerous to list here.


There is some evidence that email spammers have appended random samples of Gutenberg etexts to their unwanted missives in an attempt to bypass Bayesian filtering. See this 2003 story Spammers turn to classic prose.

Project Gutenberg etexts have also been used as search engine spam. The google spider sees the Project Gutenberg etext, whereas visitors see completely different content, mainly advertising for certain pharmaceutical products.

Students and Teachers

Project Gutenberg etexts are a valuable source of older literature that is not always quickly, easily, or cheaply available. It has the added advantage of being easily searchable if only certain aspects of the text are needed.