Category Archives: Project Updates

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

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.

Introducing our BYU student research fund

Starting this Fall, MTP will fund one or more BYU student researchers who will help us increase our output of books. MTP is staffed by volunteers, our work to date has been done entirely by volunteers, and we expect that the majority of our work will always be done by volunteers. However, we recognize that many people who would like to support our work (including some of us, frankly) have more discretionary money than discretionary time,  and we’ve heard of interest in making donations, hence this program.

The best BYU students are as capable as anyone of quickly producing high-quality e-books. They are also typically in need of financial assistance and relevant career experience. Through this fund, we will simultaneously help students avoid debt, give them resume-friendly proofreading experience (“I proofread and produced five e-books start to finish”), and increase our output of books in a cost-effective way. At standard research assistant wages and average productivity, this program will make an extra book available on Project Gutenberg for every $425 we receive in donations. In light of all this, we believe that funding student researchers at BYU to work on ebook production offers excellent value for everyone involved. Furthermore, by channeling donations through BYU, donors can take advantage of BYU’s tax-exempt status and of many employer matching gift programs.

In the interest of putting our money where our mouths are, the staff and volunteers of MTP will be donating on an ongoing basis and putting up several thousand dollars to kick-start this program. For more information, see our Donate tab.

News: Gearing up for an exciting summer

Intern recruiting for summer 2014 is now complete; we have a group of eight interns for this summer, and I’m excited to see what they’ll accomplish. They’re signed up for different numbers of hours depending on their credit needs, but on average each will be putting in something like 100 hours of work spread across the summer, so they could easily do a couple of books each.

Our volunteer base is also expanding, in significant part thanks to friendly press like the piece Meridian ran this week on LDS Great Works and MTP. We recently experimented with using Google Docs to do multi-user proofreading, and it didn’t work especially well. People get psychological fulfillment from having and completing specific responsibilities, especially complete books, and in the attribution-free multi-user environment the opposite was true. So, from here on out volunteers are being assigned specific projects and often complete books. This means that our project slate is expanding and that progress is likely to come in fits and starts. (Having all our interns start at the same time may also contribute to this.) That said, it looks like between interns and volunteers we could hit 50 LDS books on PG by the end of August. At the start of the year we were at 21 and now we’re at 31, so 50 is an exciting prospect.

Meridian has proposed that I write up a post with an excerpt from one of our books every couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for that. I’ll post links as they become available.

Finally, there will be a Conference weekend book release this Friday. Stay tuned.

News: new interns, guest post on By Common Consent

First off, if anyone hasn’t seen it, By Common Consent very kindly ran a guest post I wrote the other day. If I may say so, I quite liked the post – it talks about the vision behind MTP in more detail than I have anywhere else. The attention was very helpful; in addition to a nice spike in traffic here, a number of BCC readers have volunteered to help out with proofing–we’re excited to have them. My thanks to BCC.

At this point we have five interns signed up for this summer: Mariah Averett, Max Cook, Jared Ure, Katie Duckworth, and Heidi Billy. Jared is already getting a head start on working on History of the Church, vol. 1, and everyone else will start at the end of April. We’re excited for all the progress they’re going to help us make – they’re going to do an average of something like 100 hours of work each, which with luck ought to mean a couple of books each. Check out their bios in our people section. We’re also still recruiting.

Not much else to report. Expect a release this Saturday!

News: .zip of all ebooks, internships, new Supervising Editor, etc.

So, it’s been an eventful week or two for MTP. We’ve welcomed Nichole Eck aboard as Supervising Editor. Her bio:

Nichole Eck, Supervising Editor of the MTP, graduated with degrees in English and Linguistics and a minor in Editing from Brigham Young University. She has worked as a grammar and writing tutor at BYU, a proofreader on the 2013 edition of the LDS scriptures, and a writer and editor for the New Era and Liahona magazines. She writes speculative short fiction and occasionally blogs when not hanging out at home with her husband and 3-month-old daughter.

She brings a skill set and perspective that will be very helpful to the BYU editing interns we’re recruiting for this next summer. In related news, the BYU Editing Minor has officially approved our internship for class credit, and we’re advertising it at the BYU Publisher’s Fair in the Wilkinson Center today (Wednesday). We’re getting some interest in the history internship as well and have recruited our first intern, Mariah Averett.

We now have .zip files in the Available Texts section that contain all of the books in said section. This should make it a bit easier to get the whole collection without PG worrying about whether or not you’re a robot for how much you’re downloading.

In other news, we’re adopting a posting schedule. Release announcements will be posted on weekends. (There will not be a new release every weekend in the long run, but for a month or so here it may be close.) On weekends without new releases, we’ll typically post some commentary, quotes, etc. from a prior release. There should pretty reliably be weekend posts.

It’s not currently the weekend, which brings us to the other half of the posting schedule — when I have updates about the state of the MTP, announcements, or other meta-level material, I’ll typically post it on Wednesdays. There will only be Wednesday posts when I feel like there’s something worth posting about. On a related note, there are now blog categories for Project updates (typically Wednesday stuff), Book Commentary (typically weekend stuff), and Release Announcements (typically weekend stuff).

Good news: first-round proofing of History of the Prophet Joseph by His Mother is now complete. Second-round won’t happen until Mormon Doctrine of Deity is done, so it might be a while yet, but progress is occurring.

Also, if you’ve read this far, I have a confession. Project Gutenberg posted “General Smith’s Views on the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States,” a new work we’ve done, a while ago. They’ve also just posted William Clayton’s JournalMy First Mission by George Q. Cannon, and Essentials in Church History by Joseph Fielding Smith, which were previously available on the old MTP site but never got posted to PG before. All of these are now linked in the Available Texts section, and each will get its own full release announcement-style post on a coming Saturday, in an effort to spread the publicity out a bit. Going forward, I expect to continue this pattern; I will only formally announce multiple releases per week if we’re many weeks ahead, but I will try to keep Available Texts up-to-date even if the announcements are dragging a bit.

Upcoming releases – Orson Pratt, Joseph Smith, and more

I’ve just submitted two more pamphlets to Project Gutenberg – Orson Pratt’s “Absurdities of Immaterialism” and “General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States” by Joseph Smith. With luck, the releases will go through smoothly and within a week or two, so keep an eye out for the release announcements. 

B. H. Roberts’ Mormon Doctrine of Deity (~300 pages) is about 20% done final proofreading; with luck it’ll be available within a month. History of the Prophet Joseph by His Mother (also ~300 pages) is 40% done first-pass proofing and will be the next major work we focus on after Mormon Doctrine of Deity. With luck it’ll be finished within a couple of months. We’ve also got clearance from Project Gutenberg to do the “Lectures on Faith,” so that’s third on the to-do list. We also expect to release some previously non-Project Gutenberg MTP books on Project Gutenberg in the near future.

Finally, the BYU history program is officially offering academic credit for our summer internship program, and they’ve started publicizing it. We’re optimistic that interns will help us release several major works on an aggressive schedule towards the end of the summer.