With the invention of e-books, amazing opportunities arose. Along with the rise of the internet, many of the developed world--that is, those fortunate enough to own a modern connected device--now have access to a virtually unlimited collection of written works. However, the same people who most need these free resources cannot take advantage of them. This is why Project Hart was created. By providing free e-readers to all young people in need, we are working to eliminate the issue of accessibility. Through your generous contributions and e-reader donations, we will essentially provide each young person in need with his or her own personal digital library and a path to a brighter future.
We hope to cultivate an unlimited love of learning and literature in everyone.
Michael S. Hart
Michael Hart is known to most for the invention of the eBook. He is also famous for founding Project Gutenberg, a digital library of thousands of free eBooks available in multiple different languages.
This was not the Michael I knew.
Some of my earliest childhood memories were of Michael. When I was two years old, he gave me box upon box of computer paper. The paper was thick and the back of it was a bright blue. Many rainy afternoons were spent in my home drawing and writing on that computer paper. Some of the first stories I ever wrote were on the paper that Michael gave me.
Michael loved garage sales, he loved bargains. He took me on my first dumpster diving outing when I was still in grade school. I remember laughing at the adventure of searching for hidden treasures that college kids had left behind because they were too lazy to pack.
I remember him for adding sugar to his Wendy’s chili. I remember the hours Michael, my mom, and I spent driving around Chicago late at night in search of a Giordano’s pizza. He attended our family Thanksgiving dinners and family celebrations.
Michael was just a bright person. He knew how to shine his light. He had a way of impacting people when he was in their lives. The small moments Michael was in my life transformed into big memories for me.
A day with Michael Hart was always an adventure.
That is how I remember him. I always knew that Michael invented the eBook when I was young, but it was not until I was much older that I realized just how amazing that was. Just how important that was.
Michael shaped Project Gutenberg around the philosophy that eBooks should be free and easy to use. The goal was always to give as many eBooks to as many people as possible in an effort to “break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy.” This is the importance of reading. It gives people the ability to break down the bars, but this is where the issue comes into play. Not everyone has access to books. Not everyone can read without struggle or even at all.
How do they break down the bars? How do we level the playing field?
When Michael passed away, I was a junior in high school. I remember sitting with family and friends talking about the amazing impact Michael Hart had on the world. He made tens of thousands of eBooks available to the world for free.
He broke down the bars. He invented something so great and he did it not for his own benefit. No, he did it to help the world. He made all of his work completely free to others.
I found myself asking, “What can I do? How can I help Michael? What can I do in his legacy?”
Michael and Project Gutenberg had already done the work of making eBooks free and available to everyone. But were they accessible to everyone? What about people who did not have internet or computers? What about kids who had parents who worked multiple jobs so they could not take them to the library? How do we help them? One answer: eReaders, each one downloaded with all of the eBooks that Michael made free to the world.
It took many years of thinking and planning to get to where we are now. When founding Project Hart, I held on to the same ideals Michael had when forming Project Gutenberg. My wish is only to help as many people as possible by providing as many free ebooks to each person as possible. Our work at Project Hart is to make eBooks more accessible to everyone. We hope that everyone gets his or her opportunity to break down the bars. I work hard so that hope may one day become a reality.
If I can inspire one kid the way Michael inspired me, I will have succeeded. I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to know a person as great as Michael. May we all have that person in our lives that makes ordinary days adventures and inspires us to do more. Thank you to you for your interest and love for the power of reading. Together, we can help make sure everyone has a chance to love reading as much as we do.
Project Hart was founded by a group of current students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We are also an official registered student organization on campus.