There's some sad news coming out of Illinois today, where Michael S. Hart, the e-book
inventor who founded Project Gutenberg, has died at the age of 64. Hart's literary journey began in 1971, when he digitized and distributed his first text, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the Declaration of Independence he found at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. That same year, the Tacoma, Washington native founded Project Gutenberg -- an online library that aims to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks" and to "break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy." By 1987, he'd already digitized a total of 313 books, including works from Homer, Shakespeare and the Bible, before recruiting more volunteers to help out. As of this June, Hart's pioneering library housed about 36,000 works in its collection (most of which are in the public domain), with an average of 50 new books added each week. Described by Project Gutenberg as an "ardent technologist and futurist," Hart leaves a literary legacy perhaps best summed up in his own words. "One thing about eBooks that most people haven't thought much is that eBooks are the very first thing that we're all able to have as much as we want other than air," he wrote in July. "Think about that for a moment and you realize we are in the right job." Michael S. Hart is survived by his mother and brother.