Project Gutenberg, the longtime home of free eBooks on the web, has just introduced a mobile-ready version of their hosted content. Called PG Mobile, or Project Gutenberg's Mobile Edition, the software transforms the plain text of the files on the Project Gutenberg web site into a format that can be read easily on mobile devices with small screens.
About PG Mobile
In case you're unfamiliar, Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort where contributors digitize, archive, and distribute cultural works. Because of copyright law and restrictions, the majority of the site's content comes from public domain books. Unbelievably, the project was created in 1971, when founder Michael Hart keyed in The United States Declaration of Independence and informed the first 100 internet users.
Given the popularity and ubiquity of mobile phones, it's somewhat surprising that Project Gutenberg didn't already have a mobile edition until now. We suppose it's better late than never, though. And considering the vast size of their catalog, any effort to transform the books into mobile formats was surely not something they took lightly.
The PG Mobile software is based on the common Java file format (JAR) readable on nearly all handsets. The mobile books are downloaded as a Java applications and can be installed either using WAP (over the air), Bluetooth, serial connection, infrared, or data cable. There's no size limit to how many you can store - you are only limited by the storage capabilities of your handset. To access these books, just visit Gutenberg.org and click on the JAR link to have the mobile book installed on your phone.
What, No iPhone App?
In our world, it's perhaps hard to imagine that someone would choose to launch a Java-based app instead of (or perhaps prior to?) an iPhone version. However, that choice was certainly made based on the fact that Java runs on billions of phones worldwide where Apple, although strong in terms of revenue and growth, only represents 2.3% of the global handset marketshare.
However, iPhone readers already have several options for accessing eBooks on their mobile phones, including the popular Stanza eBook reader (iTunes link) as well as the other options we noted before. The trick is delivering that same access to large parts of the world where literature and educational materials are less available than they are for us. That's clearly what Project Gutenberg hopes to do with this mobile offering, and we have to applaud them for that.