“To break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy.”

The Legacy of Michael Hart (1947-2011)

"And to wear cool hats!"

Every Christmas we here at ibiblio see our traffic skyrocket. The man behind this spike is Michael Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg, one of our favorite and most popular partners.

In 1971, Hart began manually entering the text of books into a University of Illinois computer network. This was a solitary passion for 17 years until he was able to publicize his pursuit, convincing others to join. At that time he had uploaded “only” 313 books, including the Bible and the Declaration of Independence.

Today, with thousands of volunteers following Hart’s lead, Project Gutenberg boasts over 17,000 titles, including classics from Kafka, Shakespeare, Plato, and Dickens. Almost any book you could think of from the early 20th century and before is available to download by anyone with an Internet connection, for free.

So this Christmas, when you get your shiny (or matte) new Kindle or Nook, join thousands of others in accessing the world’s largest collection of free e-books. Curl up in a big chair, and before you start reading, shoot Mr. Hart a quick thank-you.

Michael Hart, the inventor of e-books, the founder of Project Gutenberg, a man who was famously idiosyncratic, and loved by many, died on September 6, 2011 in his home in Urbana Illinois.

The world owes Mr. Hart a debt of gratitude, and we here at ibiblio are sad to lose him. You can read his full obituary at the Project Gutenberg homepage.