Category Archives: Project Updates

News about the project, like things relating to the internship program, current projects, etc.

State of MTP / Towards “Mission Accomplished”? / Feedback Requested

In which: MTP has made a great deal of progress, but we’re starting to run out of obvious out-of-copyright books to work on, and I request opinions on our future plans.

Progress

In the last 4 years (give or take) many volunteers have done a great deal of work, and MTP has put up 94 e-books on Project Gutenberg, ranging from the 1830s to the 1920s, from pamphlets to multi-volume works, from pioneer stories to doctrine to fiction, and so on. In that same time frame, I’ve had two children, started full-time work with various related adventures, bought a house, and completed half of an online MBA program. So it’s been an exciting four years, and both my personal situation and MTP’s situation have developed quite a bit.

In 2014, I thought the list of LDS books on Project Gutenberg was embarrassing. The total volume of LDS literature was small, and many obviously significant out-of-copyright works were missing. At this point, there’s enough LDS lit posted that I am going to need many years to get caught up on reading it, and the holes in the canon are also much smaller. In the last year or so (since my last general update) the in-progress backlog has dropped from ~25 books to 12. We are still working on History of the Church vols. 4-6 (need post-processing), B. H. Roberts’ Seventy’s Course in Theology vols. 1-5 (in various stages of progress), and a few other projects that I think have value. There are also a few important post-1923 works that may not have had their copyrights renewed (e.g. Discourses of Brigham Young ed. Widtsoe), and once the post-processing backlog is done I may tackle the Project Gutenberg copyright research process to prove these are in the public domain.

Running out of books / towards “Mission Accomplished”?

But beyond these items (admittedly a hefty chunk of work) I’m struggling to come up with out-of-copyright books, not already on Project Gutenberg, that pass at least one of the following tests:

  • Can reasonably be claimed as a Mormon “great book” (see that link for examples)
  • Interests or intrigues me such that I’d consider reading it on my Kindle 
  • Is widely read/could imaginably get substantial download counts during the next decade (e.g. written by famous general authority)

There’s always another book or work that fails all of the above tests but could still be deemed to have some “significance.” Think volume 21 of the Journal of Discourses, or George Reynolds’ Complete Concordance to the Book of Mormon: important at the time, possibly of interest to scholars, but not remotely worth the effort to proofread and format as an e-book. Or consider the case of early Mormon fiction: no doubt some of it is “significant,” I wish I really loved reading it, and I wish people downloaded it, but in practice we’ve already made a decent sampling of it available and it seems to be a tough sell. This sort of “significance” is not enough motivation for me to spend the time on a book, recruit volunteers to work on it, etc. I have opportunity costs.

So the tests above are more or less where I draw the line, and MTP is approaching that line: we are unlikely to release another 94 e-books under my management or have further mass proofreading via an internship program. If there’s someone lurking out there who has much bigger dreams for out-of-copyright Mormon lit (will all you Complete Concordance die-hards out there please stand up) and a spare couple hundred hours a year, I would be happy to hand off the reins, so get in touch. Otherwise there will likely be progress on the books I listed above for a few more years, leading eventually to a stopping point.

To emphasize: I think the work we’ve done and are still doing is worthwhile, there’s more to go, and I could still use a couple more volunteers at this point. I am just making the policy statement that I do not expect to personally continue MTP’s work forever on increasingly obscure books. 

In my mind MTP’s other purpose, beyond making free e-books available, is to write about and advertise them: to encourage ordinary mortal members of the Church, who do not have an academic interest, to read awesome old Mormon stuff. The e-book production process has largely crowded this out for the last few years, and it’s likely to be at least another year before that changes, but I can imagine spending more time on it in the long-run. I’m curious to what extent we have influenced people via this side of our mission. So,

Questions for the world:

What out-of-copyright (i.e. pre-1923) LDS “great books,” books that are widely read, books that should intrigue me but may have escaped my notice, etc. are not already on Project Gutenberg?

Has MTP helped you to find and/or influenced you to read books you would not otherwise have read? How? How should we?

Please comment; I’m very interested in responses.

Triple New Release: B. H. Roberts and Joseph Fielding Smith (& Project Update!)

Well folks, it’s been a while, but we’ve got some good stuff for you.

Releases

The second volume of B. H. Roberts’ Defense of the Faith and the Saints is now available on Project Gutenberg. (See also vol. 1 here.) These together constitute a scrapbook of Roberts’ writing compiled from various national publications.

Roberts’ Outlines of Ecclesiastical History has also been posted. This work discusses the ancient church, the apostasy, the reformation, and the restoration of the gospel, while explicitly aiming to teach the principles of the gospel in the same treatment.

Finally, Salvation Universala pamphlet on salvation for the dead by Joseph Fielding Smith, is up. Remarkably, Smith, who was President of the Church 1970-1972, published this work in 1920 and had already been an Apostle for 10 years at that time.

Project Update

With that, a word of explanation is in order for the recent lag in releases. Since taking over the Mormon Texts Project, I have been blessed in many ways, including with a son, a house, admission to a part-time MBA program, a call to serve as ward clerk, and so on. Naturally, my time available for MTP is not what it once was. With this in mind, I’ve been cutting back on new project starts and focusing on completing our existing backlog of ~25 in-progress books.

I’m trying to prioritize completion of the backlog in a way that respects volunteers’ work (in some cases at the expense of our research assistants’ work and secondary intern projects), but if you’re wondering where your book you once worked on ended up, get in touch and I’ll see what I can do to hurry it along.

At this point, the project’s proofreading needs center on those few brave souls who are willing to tackle lengthier works and be extremely patient about final posting schedules. My greatest need is actually for help with post-production tasks (currently a bottleneck) including HTML generation and mildly technical text quality checks, so anyone skilled in such things is invited to get in touch.

In sum, don’t expect a terrific pace of new releases in 2017, but we do hope to keep pecking away at the backlog every so often.

Announcing the Mormon Audiobooks Project

Think the Mormon Texts Project, only for audiobooks–Ben Crowder, the original founder of MTP, is now looking for volunteers interested in working on the Mormon Audiobooks Project. It lives here; see also his announcement here. If you’re interested in volunteering as a reader or proof-listener, want updates, or even think managing such an effort would be up your alley, get in touch with Ben through his site and/or sign up for his mailing list. Should be a great resource for audiobook aficionados.

On our end, the MTP internship program is near its halfway point and has swelled the length of our books-in-progress list to an all-time high. Expect the blog to be pretty quiet for another month or so as intern projects go through HTML production and final checks, after which we should release around a dozen books by the end of August.

New Release: “The Hand of Providence” by J. H. Ward

This 1883 book by J. H. Ward is an early Mormon take on world history; it’s now available on Project Gutenberg, complete with more than thirty original illustrations. You may remember J. H. Ward as the author of Gospel Philosophy, a book on science and the gospel that we released and discussed some time ago.

The Church today has a particular understanding of how world history led up to the Restoration; this book shows Ward’s 19th century understanding of that topic, including discussion of Rome, the Middle East, the Reformation, the Americas, etc. I’m not sure to what extent Ward was popularizing existing theories vs. breaking new ground, but either way this is interesting stuff from a historiographical perspective.

2015 Mormon Texts Project Summer Internship Program

The Mormon Texts Project is once again offering a summer internship program this year, in which interns will have the opportunity to learn the e-book production process and produce at least one e-book start to finish. Last year the inaugural internship program was a great success, and this year’s program will build on last year’s to offer an even better experience for interns. The 2015 internship syllabus is available here and includes instructions on how to apply.

The internship is a part-time volunteer opportunity intended for students with interests in electronic publishing and/or Mormon history, doctrine, etc. BYU offers history or editing credit hours to MTP interns, and Utah State offers religious studies credit. We’re willing to work with other universities or departments to offer other relevant academic credit, or interns can participate simply for the prestige of working with the premiere organizations for public domain LDS e-books (MTP) and public domain e-books generally (Project Gutenberg). That and a subway token will get you on the subway, folks.

Year in Review: 44 E-Books Released Thanks to Volunteers, Donors

During 2014, the Mormon Texts Project released 44 e-books on Project Gutenberg. That’s a lot of books. To give it some scale, on Jan. 1, 2014, there were only 21 LDS e-books on Project Gutenberg. This progress is all thanks to volunteers and donors, and I’d like to thank all those who have contributed.

Volunteers have put in hundreds of hours of work to make this year’s production possible. Most had no prior personal connection to the project or anyone involved, but found out about it online, volunteered to help, and proofread an entire book over the course of a few months. Our first-ever class of summer interns played a large role by putting in a combined total of over 750 hours. Faculty and staff at Brigham Young University and Utah State University facilitated this through their support for the internship program. Many thanks to all those who have contributed their time.

Donors have also played a key role in the year’s success. Post-production of formatting-intensive works (such as the History of the Church) requires a somewhat rare skill-set and could be a limit on the project. Donor support for hundreds of hours of work by Mariah Averett, our BYU research assistant has eased this limit  and substantially increased our production. Once again, various BYU personnel (especially Dr. Alonzo Gaskill, who sponsors the position) deserve our thanks for facilitating the research assistant position.

This year’s production has included works by B. H. Roberts, Orson Pratt, James E. Talmage, Joseph Smith, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff, as well as seven books in the “Faith-Promoting Series” and various lesser-known classics like Forty Years Among the Indians and Spencer’s Letters. The “Available Texts” page shows that the most painful availability holes in the canon of classic Church lit are rapidly being filled in.

All the same, there’s still a long way to go. In the coming year, focus areas will include the History of the Church, the rest of the “Faith-Promoting Series,” and the works of B. H. Roberts. We’re already working on a couple of non-member perspectives on the early Mormon experience, including a piece by Thomas L. Kane. Mission reports, works related to early Mormon women, tracts, and more philosophical material should also get some attention.

We plan to offer the internship program again this coming summer, and we’re always looking for volunteers or donors. If the same outpouring of support we’ve seen this year continues, next year we ought to see even higher production.

Once again, thanks to all who have done so much!

The twelve newest free ebooks of LDS classics—this year!

We’re halfway through 2014, and year-to-date the Mormon Texts Project has almost doubled the number of LDS books available on Project Gutenberg, as you can see from the graph. At the start of the year there were 21 LDS books on PG, and now there are 36. That’s more than two new books on PG per month, folks. Of the fifteen that are new to Project Gutenberg, twelve are all-new productions (hence the title of this post), and three were previously available but only on the MTP site and in fewer formats. Without further ado, here’s the list of new PG books:

  1. “The Vitality of Mormonism: An Address” by James E. Talmage
  2. “Leaves From My Journal” by Wilford Woodruff
  3. “The Mormon Doctrine of Deity” by B. H. Roberts
  4. “The Life of John Taylor” by B. H. Roberts
  5. “My First Mission” by George Q. Cannon
  6. “The House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries, Ancient and Modern” by James E. Talmage
  7. “The Government of God” by John Taylor
  8. “Essentials in Church History” by Joseph Fielding Smith
  9. “General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States” by Joseph Smith
  10. “History of the Prophet Joseph by his Mother” by Lucy Smith
  11. “Absurdities of Immaterialism” by Orson Pratt
  12. “An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions” by Orson Pratt
  13. “Spencer’s Letters” by Orson Spencer
  14. “The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt” by Parley P. Pratt
  15. “William Clayton’s Journal” by William Clayton

This would not be possible without our dedicated volunteers. They’ve put in many, many hours of proofreading, often starting from painful-to-read OCR output but ultimately producing the near-flawless texts you see on Project Gutenberg. My thanks go out to them.

Believe it or not, only one of the above was produced by our interns, but as the end of the internship program approaches and their projects start getting finished expect to see at least ten more books from them over the next couple months. The second half of this year should be even better than the first.