For some reason, quite a bit of DP’s history seems to be connected to garages. On the last of the 10 days celebrating 10 years of DP, let’s have another look at history by following Juliet Sutherland into her garage:
I’ve been working out in my garage for the last week or so and it has brought back lots of memories about Distributed Proofreaders. I joined DP in April, 2002 when the site still ran on a computer in our founder charlz’ house. Preserve old books! What a wonderful idea! As with so many DP volunteers, I was immediately hooked. Very soon, proofing wasn’t enough. I pestered charlz into sending me various directions until finally I was able to scan a book. Oh happy day! It was Land of the Blue Flower by Francis Hodgson Burnett and was quickly followed by The Little Hunchback Zia by the same author. I chose those books because they were very short and small. And thus began eight years of providing content to DP.
My favorite part of providing content was buying the old books. At that time there were very few archives of scanned books so we did most of our scanning ourselves. Where ever I went, I found the used book stores and scoured their discount areas for inexpensive books that we could work on at DP. I drove to used book sales as much as two hours away from home, and came back with a car full of books. I bought a little laptop computer to keep David’s list on so that I wouldn’t get duplicates. Yes, I was thoroughly addicted. The boxes and stacks kept piling up. Finally, I resorted to banishing them to the garage. And then some more, and a few more, and then another box or three or five. I quickly had far more material than I could ever scan in a lifetime. And a huge mound grew in the garage. Greg Newby got so tired of doing my copyright clearances that he asked me to help do them for everyone. And still the mounds grew. When I eventually made neater stacks I ended up with about 6 pallets worth of boxes, stacked 3-4 feet high. I put myself on a strict moratorium regarding buying books for DP. No more!
Fast-forward to my garage today. DP has posted over 18,000 titles. PG has over 30,000. The Internet Archive (TIA) has been making lovely scans of huge numbers of books. Do I really need everything in those boxes in the garage? I’ve been sorting through, finding the books that have been posted, the ones that have already been scanned by the Internet Archive, and the ones that appear in neither place. I’ve made it through 1.5 pallets worth so far. I’ve found 4 boxes of books that are already at PG, 2.5 boxes that are not at the Internet Archive, and 2 boxes worth of material that I recycled since it was in lousy shape and available from TIA. Also one mystery box.*
As I work on those books, I remember so many people who were active in the early years. Some are still at DP, others have moved on. I think about the newer volunteers who might enjoy working on some of these books. And I continue to be amazed at the dedication of the DP volunteers and the volume of material that they produce.
* Small world story. I found a box, all sealed up for shipping, that didn’t contain books and that was addressed to someone in a nearby town. The UPS label had the phone number, so I called, spoke to the addressee and he came by to pick up the box. I figured that UPS had delivered the box by mistake at a time when I was ordering lots of boxes of bound periodicals from ebay. But he was totally mystified. Nothing in the box looked familiar. Today I got an email from my oldest daughter with a forwarded message from facebook. Here is what must have actually happened. The addressee received something unmemorable in that box. The box was then used to deliver books to the Booksale where I volunteer. I must have taken the box home for my oldest daughter to use for packing up her things to move to California. She filled and taped up the box and put it in the garage with the rest of her things. When the movers came, the box was overlooked and eventually added to one of my piles of book boxes. After that move, the only major thing oldest daughter was missing was the box with the tiles she’d brought back from her semester abroad in Turkey. And now, 4 years later, the mystery of the missing tiles has been solved. Now we just have to get the box back….