By readbueno, a DP volunteer
Passing time at Distributed Proofreaders is not like working. It is for me a relaxing process that gives me many views of the world that I would have otherwise missed.
I say “missed” because I have lacked the opportunity or the money to travel, or to read books as widely in my lifetime as I might at one time have wished to do. DP is a vicarious idea where you can experience the world through books: one day a famous classic, the next maybe a few pages from a children’s book.
You can do as much or as little as you wish, and the tasks are variable and numerous. In this wonderful world of books, maybe some are a little old-fashioned—but better late than never.
I have always lived in small villages near the sea, or on small boats, so computers were not a big thing with me. I only came to the connected world four years ago, rather late in my life, when I retired, and the village where I live had a rural WiFi scheme installed. If I had only realized that there were sites like DP, it might have given me much greater incentive to become involved much sooner. I have always felt involved since my first day at DP. Like many other DPers, I found the site through downloading books from Project Gutenberg.
Proofing at DP is a relatively easy task, and working on so many different projects is like looking through a new window with every page that you do. Although formatting is a little more technical, the basics can be quickly learnt, and progress is made because everyone works as part of a large team. We contribute mutually, and one’s individual weaknesses are well covered by others’ combined strengths. The interaction between volunteers during this process makes it hard not to make friends, and so DP is a very friendly place to become attached to.
The bolder and more adventurous volunteers eventually progress to Post Processing, putting the projects into their final form before they are posted to PG. I quickly entered into this area and now have more than 50 books at PG from children’s books to larger and more difficult projects. I learned on the way to become quite proficient in image manipulation, especially old photographs and coloured book-plates.
Recently, I started to learn Content Providing and Project Managing. This has required further skills in OCR, and preparing and guiding the projects through the rounds. This has brought me into even closer contact with other volunteers, producing their requests and answering the inevitable questions as the books progress through the rounds. One of my recent efforts in this area is With a Camera in Majorca (the image shows “Majorcan Country Girls”).
There are also important administrative jobs at DP held by Project Facilitators and “Squirrels” (the technical team that maintains the site and coding at DP, among other chores). These tasks require experience that I have not yet acquired in my short time at DP.
Experienced volunteers who enjoy guiding new members can become Mentors and Post-Processing Verifiers. And for those who enjoy just reading, there is Smooth Reading, which, as its name implies, involves making sure that the book reads correctly in its final form and that there are no startling errors before it goes to PG.
I am very glad that I found DP. As a virtually housebound person, I feel useful, and the idea and the opportunity of making these books freely available at PG is a wonderful and altruistic pastime.
Please feel free to join us. I assure you that you will be made most welcome.
Detail: Majorca is a Spanish island in the Mediterranean.
This CC-licensed essay originally appeared in slightly different form in Hot off the Press: Book Reviews and News from Distributed Proofreaders. Image credit here.