Project Gutenberg Principle of Minimal Regulation/ Administration, by Michael Hart and Greg Newby

Project Gutenberg is founded on the principle of Minimal supervision of our volunteers in their effort to promote our mission: To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.

We have found the best thing Project Gutenberg can do to achieve the mission is often to simply get out of the way and let our volunteers do what they like best, and then help them make any adjustments that might be necessary to get their work to the most readers.

These non-interference principles mean the Project Gutenberg’s staff and the organization as a whole can do the most good by setting up a set of tools and infrastructure to create and distribute eBooks, and then let creative and energetic volunteers do work as they see fit.

One of the outcomes of this principle is free experimentation with a lot of new ideas, even if these ideas break with past traditions and methods - or even common sense! Rather than saying, “NO,” to people with new ideas, Project Gutenberg strives to say, “YES,” and to back it up with assistance to get these new ideas into practical output.

Another outcome of this principle of non-interference is a lack of a need for perfectionism. Project Gutenberg has always been a work in progress, a new way of doing things. Rather than trying to find the one “right way to create and distribute eBooks,” we believed in lots of ways, as many different “right” ways as people want to have.

As Project Gutenberg operates on the principle of non-interference–our mission includes keeping the door open to people or projects for the creation of many a different ways of seeing things. The project recognizes a big role for people with more focused interests, or who prefer to work with a specific emphasis. When these interests match with the Gutenberg mission, these people and projects are welcome to function entirely or partially as part of Project Gutenberg, or in a mutually beneficial but non-exclusive way. When interests don’t get perfectly matched, Project Gutenberg is a supportive and encouraging force behind any efforts that help fulfill any similar missions.

The Project Gutenberg organization consists of many individuals, all of whom have different motivations and interests. We are working to achieve a common mission: to create and distribute eBooks. Since no single organization or effort can be “just right” for everyone, even with a shared mission, Project Gutenberg works hard to remove all of the barriers that might stand between motivated individuals, groups, or other like minded organizations: these have created standards of their own to work on particular authors, formats, languages, etc. so we can provide you either with the freedom to create your eBooks for your own purposes and standards or to use prearranged standards. We recognize that our volunteers ARE volunteers, and that you should be given as much help or as much leeway, or both, as possible.

The only barrier that Project Gutenberg seeks to maintain is the one that keeps notions such as dogmatism, perfectionism, elitism, format restrictions, content restrictions and so forth from restricting the freedom of people to create, read and distribute the eBooks they are interested in. This leads to a one of the Project Gutenberg mottos:

Break Down the Bars of Ignorance and Illiteracy.

Written by Michael S. Hart and Gregory B. Newby June 25, 2004. Updated October 23, 2004.