Before there was Google Print, there was Project Gutenberg, a grassroots attempt to provide free online versions of the world's great literature. But even though Project Gutenberg was a pioneer, it appears that Google has nothing but disdain for Michael Hart, the visionary behind Project Gutenberg, and his work.
That's made clear in an interview Hart did with the Wall Street Journal. Hart told the Journal that about a year before Google Print was launched, Google contacted him, and asked that he visit Google headquarters.
"They let us tell them about all that we were doing," he said. "They gave us a free lunch and everything...At a certain point, they sort of talked us out the door."
All Hart got out of that meeting was a free lunch, though. After Google got what they wanted out of him, they dropped him like a hot potato. Hart wasn't looking for money. He would have liked Google to make available the works of literature he and others had put online.
"Google didn't want to have anything to do with us...If Google put up all of our books, that would be fine. I would have gladly worked with Google."
Project Gutenberg has been a spectacular success. It has more than 17,000 classics available for free download, and it violates no copyrights. In a typical week, Hart says, the site has a million downloads.