New Release: History of the Church, vol. 1

Our multi-format free e-book of History of the Church, vol. 1 by Joseph Smith (ed. B. H. Roberts) is now available on Project Gutenberg thanks to the work of intern Jared Ure and research assistant Mariah Averett. It takes the history of the Church up to 1834 and includes the original 1902 edition page numbers, footnotes, and index.

A discussion of why we’re producing the History of the Church may be in order. The entire History of the Church is available as a paid Kindle e-book or for free as a webpage or .pdf, and the Joseph Smith Papers are reproducing much of the same material. The Joseph Smith Papers are available for free online (in a format that I find isn’t friendly to through-reading, but is fine for looking up one-off documents) and are superior as a scholarly source, but for whatever reason their e-books are absurdly expensive on Kindle (up to $40/volume, last I checked) and many volumes don’t appear to be available in e-book formats.

So why invest a substantial amount of time in producing our own version? Because best I can tell, this is the first time this material has ever been released for free in Kindle and epub formats. I think there are plenty of readers in the Church who would like to give the History of the Church a try, but don’t want to have to sit at a computer or pay to do so. Now they can.

This fits with our broader philosophy: we want to make it as easy as possible to read Church literature and thus increase the total amount of Church lit that actually gets read. Taking obscure works from unavailable (e.g. hard copies exist in one archive) to free improves availability. Taking well-known books from free+inconvenient (e.g. pdf scans) and/or cheap+convenient (e.g. dubious-quality $0.99 Amazon editions) to free+convenient also improves availability. The obscure work wins “most improved” and goes from having one reader/year to five readers/year. The well-known book goes from having 100 readers/year who are willing to deal with the .pdf or risk their dollar on an e-book to 500 readers/year who are willing to download our free e-book. Both projects are good, and we do work on some more obscure books. However, given our goal to increase the total amount of Church lit reading that goes on in the world, we’ll typically work on better-known books, hence the History of the Church. Anyways, look out for volume 2 in the next month or so.

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