How Does Your Garden Glow?

February 2, 2016


I love a garden. It touches and woos your senses. With sounds of rustling leaves, tools crunching into the soil, birds arguing over the spoils, bees buzzing the blossoms, rain spattering on broad leaves. Earthy scents, freshly turned earth, mint, broken leaves, flowers, spices. The textures of the leaves, soft, fuzzy, prickly, cool and smooth. Tastes … crackling radishes, firm tomatoes and squash, crisp lettuce and onions, freshly dug potatoes, strawberries right off the plant and won from the maurading and eager wildlife. You have to check to be sure the berries are ripe … often … wouldn’t do to serve others less than perfect berries. A well-kept garden is a beautiful thing.

Distributed Proofreaders has a discussion thread just for talking about our gardens. You’ll read what is growing in which parts of the world. What is failing and what is trying to take over.


Additionally, and more importantly, DP has books about gardening. Books for children, books for those wanting to start and for those who, for want of a better term, want to dig deeper. One of my favourites has to be one we are working on right now from the classic Mary Frances series, The Mary Frances Garden Book, by Jane Eayre Fryer. Not only does this children’s book have beautiful illustrations and a fun narrative, it also has an actual picture of a plain garden that you cut out. Then, for each season, there are additional cut-outs with tabs that you tape on the back of the garden. Then you can fold them over the plain garden to show how the garden could look in full bloom. The book tells you to not cut it up but to trace the pictures. Thanks to the modern wonders of the Internet, though, you can print those pages out in their full glory and color!

plaingarden springgarden
Plain garden Spring garden

This is just one of the books on gardening for children soon to be available on Project  Gutenberg. A few more ready for your reading pleasure are:

daddy_garden gardening4lgirls childrens_book_garden
Howard R. Garis
Olive Hyde Foster
Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick
Mrs. Paynter

Obviously there are also books on gardening without cartoon drawings. If you are  interested in how to make things grow, here are just a few:

Or if you are more interested in a scientific approach, try one of these:

The sun is rising, the birds are starting to sing … open a book and come walk with me in a garden.


 This post was contributed by a DP volunteer.

The life of a book at Distributed Proofreaders

January 1, 2016

This post walks through the life of a book at DP from its beginnings as a physical book to its final form as a beautiful ePub, using Uncle Wiggily’s Auto Sled by Howard Roger Garis, recently posted to Project Gutenberg (eBook number 50405), as a study.

Aside: I didn’t help with this particular book in any way, but rather selected it based on its length, language, beautiful illustrations, and wonderful example of a final ePub.


Selecting a book

The process begins when a volunteer (usually referred to as a Content Provider) finds a book they want as an eBook. They first have to get a clearance from Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation (PGLAF) that the book is in the public domain, and legal to be reproduced. and Project Gutenberg are both in the United States and thus must adhere to US Copyright law. DP and PG sites hosted in other countries are able to work on and host books that are in the public domain in their respective countries, but aren’t in the public domain in the US.

Figuring out if a book is in the public domain can be oddly complicated — which is why we leave it to the professionals at PGLAF — but a general rule of thumb is that if it was published in the US before 1923, it’s probably in the public domain in the US.

Uncle Wiggily’s is copyright 1922, so just barely under the wire.

Getting the initial text

After receiving clearance, the volunteer either scans the book in or finds the page images from Google BooksThe Internet Archive (usually through their OpenLibrary site), or a slew of other image providers. The images will likely need some level of cleaning to deskew or despeckle them after being scanned in. The images are then run through OCR software to get an initial, raw copy of the text.

Page images of Uncle Wiggily’s were obtained from Google Books.

Note that Google Books and The Internet Archive stop here — eBooks you download from them contain only the text obtained from OCR. PDFs contain the page images with the underlying OCR available for selection and searching. The Internet Archive provides an ePub format, but it’s of the raw OCR text — not a pleasant reading experience.

At DP, this is just the first step in the process of refining and creating an eBook.

Loading the book into DP

Once the page images and text are available, a Project Manager will take up the mantle and guide the book (referred to as a project) through DP. Note that the Project Manager may have acted as Content Provider as well, may have been asked by the Content Provider to manage the book, or may have found the project on one of DP’s internal lists of available scans ready for adoption.

Either way, the Project Manager will create a new project at DP for the book (e.g., Uncle Wiggily’s project page). They’ll fill in a slew of metadata about the project so that proofreaders will be able to find it. This includes information like the name, author, the language the book is written in, and its genre. They will then add the page images and text.

Unleash the proofreaders!

Up until now the process hasn’t been very distributed and may, in fact, have all be done by a single individual. But now that the book has been loaded and is ready for proofreading, many people can work on it at once.

The book starts out in P1, the first proofreading round. Proofreading volunteers can select any book available in this round and start proofreading pages. How they select which project to work on is completely up to them. They might browse the list of all available projects in the round or search for those matching a specific genre and/or language.

Once they find a project and click on ‘Start Proofreading,’ they are presented with an interface that shows the page image and the text. Their job is straightforward: make the text match the image and follow some basic proofreading guidelines. After they make whatever changes they think are necessary to the text, they save the page and can either get a new page from the project or stop proofreading. Other volunteers may be working on the book at the same time, each on a separate page.

After all pages have been proofread, the project is moved into two other proofreading rounds in series: P2 and P3. While any volunteer can proofread books in P1, the subsequent rounds have entrance criteria to ensure each level has ever-increasing proofreading experience and critical eyes.

The time it takes to go through the proofreading rounds can vary from minutes to years depending on the size of the book, the complexity of the pages, the quality of the initial OCR, and most importantly, how many volunteers are interested in working on it!

Uncle Wiggily’s meagre 33 pages soared through all three proofreading rounds in 4.5 hours.

Formatting: a bold move

Proofreading focuses on the page text, not how it’s formatted — that’s for the F1 and F2 formatting rounds. It’s in these rounds that all formatting happens, including things like bold, italics, and underlining, as well as marking poetry and other non-paragraph text for when the book is combined back together. These rounds are also fully distributed and, not surprisingly, there’s a set of formatting guidelines as well.

Uncle Wiggily’s completed both formatting rounds in roughly 12 hours.

Stitching them all back up again

Now that the pages have been proofread and formatted, they wait for a Post-Processor to pick them up and stick them together into their final form. The Project Manager may perform this step, or it may be someone else. The Post-Processor will do a wide range of sanity checks on the text to ensure consistency, merge hyphenated words that break across pages, and many other bits. They’ll create at least a plain-text version of the book for uploading to Project Gutenberg. Nowadays HTML versions are also very common and are further used to make ePubs for eBook readers.

Books like Uncle Wiggily with illustrations require even more care. Unlike page texts that are often scanned in at a relatively low resolution in black and white, illustrations are often in color and always at a higher resolution. Post-Processors will take great care in cropping, color balancing, and doing other image processing on the illustrations before including them in the HTML and ePub versions.

Smoooooooth reading

Often, but not always, Post-Processors will submit the books to what is called the smooth reading round. This is an opportunity for people to read the book as a book, but with a careful eye to anything that looks amiss. Humans are great at noticing when things are not quite right, and what a better way to do it than reading the book! If the reader spies something amiss they can let the Post-Processor know and have it corrected.

Posted to Project Gutenberg

Now that the eBook is completed, it’s posted to Project Gutenberg! Each eBook gets a unique number from Project Gutenberg which is recorded in the DP project record.

Uncle Wiggily’s Auto Sled was given number 50405 and was posted in several different formats:

Every book posted from DP includes a credit line in the text that recognizes the Project Manager and Post-Processor individually and the team at DP as a collective. If the images were sourced from another provider, they are also recognized in the credit line.

Uncle Wiggily’s credit line looks like this:

E-text prepared by David Edwards, Emmy, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team ( from page images generously made available by the Google Books Library Project (

Preserving history, one page at a time

As you can see, there are many different ways to help create an eBook as a DP volunteer. The best thing about DP is that you can do only the parts you enjoy and only as much of those parts as you enjoy.

Interested in helping a book on its journey? It’s easy to get started as a proofreader — just:

  1. Create an account at DP
  2. After you register, find a project and start proofreading!

Or you can smooth read a book without even creating an account.

Happy 15th Anniversary! (Part 6)

October 26, 2015
15th anniversary banner

Semper ad Meliora (Always towards better things)

This is the sixth and last in a series of posts celebrating Distributed Proofreaders’ 15th Anniversary.

Comic Insects cover

26000 Comic Insects, by F.A.S. Reid (1872), was posted October 1, 2013, as the 26,000th book. This is a collection of amusing poems about insects and features delightful illustrations by Berry F. Berry. The Hot off the Press blog post for this milestone, which coincided with DP’s 13th anniversary, can be found here.

27000 Number 27,000 was the 13-volume Storia della decadenza e rovina dell’impero romano (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire), an Italian translation of the classic work by British historian Edward Gibbon, posted March 28, 2014. It was originally published in London in separate volumes between 1776 and 1789. Italian author Davide Bertolotti translated it to Italian, and his version was published in Milan between 1820 and 1824. See the Hot off the Press blog post here.

28000 For a change of pace, The Mystery of Choice, by Robert W. Chambers (1897), was posted as the 28,000th selection on August 16, 2014. This book is a collection of short, related stories with topics ranging from a murder mystery, to the ghost of a dark priest, to the search for dinosaurs — in short, something for everyone. The Hot off the Press blog post about it is here.

29000 Histoire de France (History of France), by Jules Michelet (1867), was posted on January 14, 2015, making it the 29,000th contribution from DP to Project Gutenberg. This 19-volume masterpiece took Michelet 30 years to complete, and it took DP over nine years to transform the complete set into a high-quality set of e-books — a tremendous accomplishment all around. Here is the Hot off the Press blog post celebrating this milestone.

30K banner

30000 As you may expect, the 30,000th title was represented not by a single book, but by 30, posted on July 7, 2015. They represent the vast scope of DP volunteers’ work, with books on science, technology, medicine, poetry, archaeology, folklore, literature, drama, history, autobiography, political science, and fiction, both general and juvenile. They include works in English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian. Each of the thirty titles represents countless hours of work by DP’s many volunteers, who performed myriad tasks such as preparing the page scans, setting up the projects, carefully proofing and formatting the texts page-by-page to ensure their high quality, post-processing, smooth-reading, and verifying them — not to mention those who make all that work possible by maintaining and improving DP’s online systems, mentoring, and performing a host of other essential tasks. This Hot off the Press blog post gives the list of books, with links, for this milestone.

PG’s 50,000th title DP had the honor of contributing Project Gutenberg’s 50,000th title just last month, on September 17, 2015. This was, appropriately, John Gutenberg, First Master Printer, His Acts, and most remarkable Discourses, and his Death, by Franz von Dingelstedt. The Hot off the Press blog post celebrating this achievement is here. As part of DP’s 15th Anniversary celebration, a DP volunteer recorded an audiobook of this title for Librivox.

Thanks and congratulations to the entire Distributed Proofreaders community, whose dedication to “preserving history one page at a time” has made this 15th Anniversary celebration possible.

These 15th Anniversary posts were contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.

Happy 15th Anniversary! (Part 5)

October 21, 2015
15th anniversary banner

Semper ad Meliora (Always towards better things)

This is the fifth in a series of posts celebrating Distributed Proofreaders’ 15th Anniversary.

21000 The 21,000th contribution, on August 22, 2011, was The Pros and Cons of Vivisection, by Charles Richet (1908). Vivisection (experimental surgery on living beings) has long been a controversial practice. The author, a distinguished French physiologist, tries to “set forth, as impartially as possible, the reasons which militate for and against vivisection. It is, however, a physiologist who is speaking, therefore no one will be surprised that he should defend a practice which is at the basis of the science he teaches.”

22000 We go to January 2, 2012 — and 1901 — for the 22,000th offering, The Nibelungenlied, the great medieval German epic poem, translated into English by William Nanson Lettsom. It tells the tale of the hero Siegfried, who slays a dragon, gains a treasure, fights a number of battles, and wins a fair lady — thereby setting into motion a tangled and tragic plot that is famously the basis for Richard Wagner’s great opera cycle, The Ring of the Nibelung.

Leaving the Ship

Leaving the Ship, from Crusoe’s Island

23000 June 5, 2012, gave us Crusoe’s Island: A Ramble in the Footsteps of Alexander Selkirk, by John Ross Browne, the 23,000th contribution. Published in 1864, this is an account of the Irish-born American author’s experiences in the Juan Fernández Islands, his stint as a government commissioner in California, and his life as an agent in the Nevada silver mines. The author’s sketches are included.

24000 French literature provided the 24,000th book, on October 31, 2012, Cours familier de littérature (Familiar Literature Courses, vol. 14, 1862), by M.A. de Lamartine. Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine, Chevalier de Pratz, was a French writer, poet, and politician who was instrumental in the foundation of the French Second Republic. He ended his life in poverty, publishing monthly installments of the Cours familier de littérature to support himself. You can find the celebratory blog post for this milestone here.

25K banner

25000 DP’s 25,000th book was, appropriately for the “silver milestone,” The Art and Practice of Silver Printing, by pioneering photographers H.P. Robinson and Captain Abney (1881), which was posted April 10, 2013. The authors noted, “The one defect of silver printing is the possibility of its results fading; but surely it is better to be beautiful, if fading, than permanent and ugly. It is better to be charmed with a beautiful thing for a few years, than be bored by an ugly one for ever.” You can read more about this book on Hot off the Press here.

Next: The celebration continues with milestones 26000 to 30000.

These 15th Anniversary posts were contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.

Happy 15th Anniversary! (Part 4)

October 16, 2015
15th anniversary banner

Semper ad Meliora (Always towards better things)

This is the fourth in a series of posts celebrating Distributed Proofreaders’ 15th Anniversary.

ABC Cover

16000 October 1, 2009, brought to Project Gutenberg ABC: Petits Contes (ABC: Short Stories), by Jules Lemaître (1919, French). This is a beautifully illustrated children’s book. Even if you can’t recognize a single French word, this book is worth downloading for the striking color illustrations by “Job” (Jacques Onfroy de Bréville).

17000 DP saw its next milestone book, the 17,000th, on March 4, 2010: The Position of Woman in Primitive Society, by British author and headmistress C. Gasquoine Hartley (1914). From the introductory chapter: “This little book is an attempt to establish the position of the mother in the family. It sets out to investigate those early states of society, when, through the widespread prevalence of descent through the mother, the survival of the family clan and, in some cases, the property rights were dependent on women and not on men.”

18000 The 18,000th book, made available June 15, 2010, is Area Handbook for Romania, by Eugene K. Keefe et al. (1972), a U.S. Government publication. The Foreword describes it as “one of a series of handbooks prepared by Foreign Area Studies (FAS) of The American University, designed to be useful to military and other personnel who need a convenient compilation of basic facts about the social, economic, political, and military institutions and practices of various countries. The emphasis is on objective description of the nation’s present society and the kinds of possible or probable changes that might be expected in the future.”

10th anniversary banner

10th Anniversary On October 1, 2010, DP kicked off a 10-day celebration of its 10th anniversary. This blog was inaugurated on that date with A Decade of Dedication, and continued each day until October 10 celebrating DP-produced books and DP volunteer stories: The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, An Introduction to Astronomy, “Turn around when possible,” Kipling’s Just So Stories, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Principles of Orchestration, the Encyclopedia of Needlework, In Pursuit of Poetry, Come out of the Kitchen, and, finally, a slice of DP history from its former General Manager, Garage Musings.

19000 The 19,000th title was a Dutch offering, Vanden Vos Reinaerde, Uitgegeven en Toegelicht, edited by W.J.A. Jonckbloet (1856), posted November 9, 2010. This is a critical edition of the medieval fables about the clever Reynard the Fox, which were satirical commentaries on human society disguised as animal tales.

20000 Then, on April 7, 2011, DP celebrated its 20,000th title with multiple books in multiple languages: English; Italian, including Neapolitan and Sicilian dialects; German, including Middle High German; Latin, including Latino sine flexione; Dutch; French; and Esperanto. You can find the full list, with links, in this celebratory blog post.

Next: The celebration continues with milestones 21000 to 25000.

These 15th Anniversary posts were contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.

Happy 15th Anniversary! (Part 3)

October 11, 2015
15th anniversary banner

Semper ad Meliora (Always towards better things)

This is the third in a series of posts celebrating Distributed Proofreaders’ 15th Anniversary.


Sigmund Freud

11000 The Northern Nut Growers Association Thirty-fourth Annual Report (1943) was the 11,000th title that Distributed Proofreaders posted to Project Gutenberg, on September 12, 2007. This was part of what we at DP call an “uberproject” — a large-scale multi-volume project, in this case a series of annual reports of the non-profit Northern Nut Growers Association from 1911 to 1963.

12000 DP’s 12,000th title — one of three milestones reached in 2008 — was Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens (The Psychopathology of Everyday Life), by Sigmund Freud (1904, German), posted on January 26, 2008. This classic work by the father of psychoanalysis is a study of the so-called “Freudian slip” — a mistake that theoretically has a deeper psychological meaning.

13000 The 13,000th title, posted on June 24, 2008, was A World of Girls (1891), by the Irish author L.T. Meade. Meade was a prolific writer of moral tales, romances, and adventure stories, as well as scientific articles. A World of Girls was her first school story, and an early example of the genre.

14000 On December 1, 2008, DP posted its 14,000th title, The Art of Stage Dancing, by Ned Wayburn (1925). Wayburn was a successful Broadway dance “director” (he didn’t like the term “choreographer”) of the early 20th Century. This book shares his method of teaching different styles of dancing and his experiences. You can find a “Hot off the Press” review of it here.

15K banner

15000 The 15,000th title, halfway to our present milestone, was Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (vol. I, 1665-1666), edited by Henry Oldenburg. It was posted on May 12, 2009. The subtitle says it all: “Giving Some Accompt of the Present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours of the Ingenious in Many Considerable Parts of the World.” This is the first issue of the journal of The Royal Society, the oldest scientific society still in existence. Philosophical Transactions is still being published today, and is celebrating its 350th anniversary this year.

Next: The celebration continues with milestones 16000 to 20000.

These 15th Anniversary posts were contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.

Happy 15th Anniversary! (Part 2)

October 6, 2015
15th anniversary banner

Semper ad Meliora (Always towards better things)

This is the second in a series of posts celebrating Distributed Proofreaders’ 15th Anniversary.

6000 For its 6,000th title, DP submitted the two volumes of The Journal of Sir Walter Scott. This diary of the famed Scottish novelist runs from 1825 to 1832. Two days after he started the diary, Scott expressed concerns about the financial stability of his publisher, in which he was a significant investor. The following year, the publisher failed, leaving Scott with some £130,000 of debt (the equivalent of about £9.5 million today). Scott then spent the next seven years — the rest of his life — churning out more novels in his bestselling Waverley series, as well as other writings, to pay off this massive debt. You can find a blog review of it here.

7000 On June 23, 2005, DP contributed three books, each in a different language, to celebrate its 7,000th title and the language diversity of its work:


W.E.B. Du Bois

8000 February 8, 2006, saw the 8,000th title from DP, The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870, by W. E. B. Du Bois. Du Bois was a leading African-American scholar and activist. This, his first book, published in 1896, was a revised version of his 1895 doctoral dissertation at Harvard University, where he was the first African-American student to earn a Ph.D. degree. Du Bois helped found the NAACP in 1909. He published over one hundred articles and essays, and authored twenty-one books, including two novels.

9000 On September 4, 2006, DP again offered multiple books for a milestone, with “a trinity of diversity” to celebrate its 9,000th title. This was represented by:

  • Kelly Miller’s History of the World War for Human Rights, by Kelly Miller. This 1919 treatise by a noted African-American mathematician and author “sets forth the black man’s part in the world’s war with the logical sequence of facts and the brilliant power of statement for which the author is famous,” according to the publisher’s introduction. It contains numerous historic photographs.
  • Poems, by Christina G. Rossetti. British poet Christina Rossetti, sister of the equally famous Pre-Raphaelite poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, wrote children’s, devotional, and romantic poems. She is best known for “Goblin Market,” “Remember,” and the lyrics to the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Mid-Winter,” all of which appear in this 1906 collection.
  • Hey Diddle Diddle and Baby Bunting, illustrated by Randolph Caldecott. This 1882 picture book of two nursery rhymes, illustrated by the famed British artist, is a lovely example of Caldecott’s work. The prestigious Caldecott Medal, awarded to the most distinguished American picture book for children, was named after him.

10K banner

10000 For the 10,000th title milestone on March 9, 2007, DP offered a collection of fifteen books:

Next: The celebration continues with milestones 11,000 to 15,000.

These 15th Anniversary posts were contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.

%d bloggers like this: