Ben Crowder on the Mormon Texts Project

You probably know Ben Crowder as the Editor-in-Chief of Mormon Artist magazine. But Ben is the kind of guy who always has several projects going on at one time, and I thought that one of them that he is actively working on right now — the Mormon Texts Project — would be of interest to AMV’s readers.

Could you briefly describe the Mormon Texts Project for our readers who may not have heard of it?

The goal of the Mormon Texts Project is to make out-of-copyright Mormon books available for free online, specifically in plain text through Project Gutenberg. (We chose Project Gutenberg because it’s been around for a long time and has a lot of reach.)

You are actively looking for volunteers to help with MTP. Do volunteers need to have major tech skills to help? What do they need to do/know/have?

Only basic tech skills are needed — the majority of the work our volunteers do consists of comparing a page of text to the corresponding page image, fixing formatting problems according to our MTP guidelines. An eye for detail helps, of course. Volunteers can do this on pretty much any kind of computer. (In the past we’ve emailed out the page images and page text, but we’re in the middle of switching to a web app.)

AMV’s readers tend to be interested in works of fiction. If volunteers step up and help, can they suggest literary works to be included on the priority list? What literary works are currently on the list waiting for volunteers to help prep them for submission to Project Gutenberg?

We’re certainly open to suggestions from both volunteers and the community on works to be digitized, whether literary or not. The only literary work on the list at the moment is Orson F. Whitney’s Elias: an epic of the ages, but we do plan to add as many as we can.

Copyright is tricky and you explain which works to focus on at your MTP FAQ, but if there are out-of-print works from the past 40-50 years where the copyright owner is willing to let MTP have the work, is that something that can be worked out? Why or why not?

According to the Project Gutenberg Volunteers’ FAQ, a book is eligible for posting if it’s in the public domain in the United States or the copyright holder has granted unlimited non-exclusive distribution rights to Project Gutenberg. So yes, if the copyright owner is willing to grant those distribution rights to Project Gutenberg, we’re fine with digitizing the book.

Anything else people should know about the project?

For now, we’re focusing just on plain text, but we may eventually expand to EPUB or Kindle formats if there’s enough demand for it. And again, we’re very open to suggestions for books to digitize — just email me (ben.crowder at gmail).

Thanks, Ben!

6 thoughts on “Ben Crowder on the Mormon Texts Project”

  1. Ben, are you switching to the Distributed Proofreaders system for collaboratively proofreading the books up on the web and adding them to Project Gutenberg?

    If not, you should know that DP is already doing The Articles of Faith, so there might be a problem with duplication of effort.

  2. Fascinating. I had no idea this was out there.

    And I’m jealous. This is exactly the sort of thing I’d hope might get posted over at the AML blog. Except that I’m also an AMV partisan, so even my jealousy is ambivalent…

  3. Kent: No, I decided not to go with Distributed Proofreaders (while the work they do is awesome, the app’s UI makes the designer in me a little sick). I’m in the middle of writing my own web-based collaborative proofing app, Unbindery, which we’ll be using instead.

    As for DP doing The Articles of Faith, that project has been dormant for a year and a half, and they never actually started on it. The Project Gutenberg copyright clearance people gave them notification that we’re doing it — a chance to say, “Hey, we still want to do this” — but they never responded. (But if there are other groups out there actively digitizing Mormon books, I do want to know about them so we don’t have to duplicate the work. :))

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