Gutenberg, not Google

Vauhini Vara’s got a great interview with Michael Hart on the Wall Street Journal website today. (Click quick, that link probably expires.)
I’ve always felt that Project Gutenberg’s efforts, both on their own and as an antecedent to both Wikipedia and Google Print, have been a bit overlooked. In addition to some insights into how the project has evolved, and the disappointing way that Gutenberg has been overlooked in the pat few years, I’ve got to credit Vauhini for a great interview with a technologist.
Hart is a colorful guy, as evidenced by his hat in the photo in the Journal. But the story, remarkably, isn’t about his hygiene or aesthetics. In addition, though Project Gutenberg is non-commercial, this isn’t presented as a “Those hippies want everything to be free!” story as many stories about free culture and open source tend to be. Finally, the questions, especially the lingering discussion of the topic of scanning vs. hand-typing books, really reflect the concerns of the community and project they’re reporting on, instead of the usual tech news habit (I’m looking at you, CNET) of framing things in the context that generates the most heat and the least illumination.
Almost any other version of this story would have probably had a headline something like “Battling Google with Open-Source Tactics: Will one hippie and ten thousand primates at ten thousand keyboards undermine copyright laws with their quixotic project?” It’s nice to see a reasonable story for a change.
(And, you know, since we had big Movable Type news today, it’s only appropriate to give some credit to Gutenberg.)