5 Simple Reasons to Volunteer for Distributed Proofreaders

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Offering my time as a volunteer for Distributed Proofreaders (DP) for the last three years has been very rewarding for me. There are many reasons why I do it and today, I’d like to share them with you.

Many DP volunteers found the site by downloading books from Project Gutenberg; however, it was during my training to become a qualified copy editor and proofreader that my introduction occurred. My tutor recommended DP as a suitable place to practice my skills. Thank you, Shauna Meade. But, what are the other reasons why I volunteer for Distributed Proofreaders?

A Chance To Give Back

Volunteering your services to a not-for-profit organisation is your chance to give something back to the world. Working for DP is my chance to give something back to the world of literature. I wrote an article about why Project Gutenberg (PG) is such a treasured resource and love being part of the process.

No Minimum Time Commitments

DP doesn’t ask its volunteers to commit to a minimum work schedule. You can do as much or as little as you want: the tasks are variable and numerous. You are free to pop in sporadically, work for a few minutes a day, or whatever pattern you want. This means that my work in this volunteering position doesn’t interfere with my schedule.

In this wonderful world of out-of-print books, you can discover a forgotten treasure. Yes, many may seem old-fashioned or have ideas and themes that our modern-day sensibilities frown upon. But I love this peek into the past that proofreading these books gives me.

Keeps My Eyes On The Ball

As Shauna suggested, volunteering for DP allows me to keep my eyes trained during those times when I have few proofreading contracts. However, working through the pages available doesn’t feel like working. It is, for me, a relaxing process that gives me a chance to step through the evolution of language and literature while still being a productive way to spend some free time.

Reveals A New (Old) World Of Literary Material

DP is a sensational idea where you can experience the history of the written word: one day you’re checking a famous classic, the next maybe a few pages from a cookbook or a Gothic thriller. As a proofreader volunteer, I’ve discovered some books that I would otherwise never have come across. I’ve also rediscovered my passion for local history, a hobby that has been dormant for the past decade.

Keeps My Proofreading Skills Fresh

As a proofreading professional, I don’t proofread against copy often—I usually do blind (or cold) proofreading—and it’s fun to do something else for a change while not departing from my job too much.

Proofing at DP couldn’t be easier.

Working on so many different projects is like looking through a new window with every page that you do. Every project has a Mentor who is always on hand to help with any issues and give feedback on your work. There’s also the opportunity to help during the latter stages of the process.

DP is a great team to be a part of.

So far, Project Gutenburg now have 42,549 titles available in its library – preserved for the world! This progress has been made because everyone at DP works as part of a team. We contribute mutually, and so any individual weaknesses are 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.

While the DP website has thousands of registered volunteers from all over the world, only about 3% are active in a single month.

The braver and more daring volunteers eventually progress to Post Processing. This is where the projects are formatted into their final form before they are posted to Project Gutenberg (PG). The tasks include image manipulation, especially old photographs, and coloured bookplates. I’ve been assured by fellow DPers that the basics can be easily learnt and it’s something I’d like to add to my skill-set. 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).

Experienced volunteers who enjoy guiding new members can become Mentors and Post Processing Verifiers. The Smooth Reading stage, as its name implies, simply involves reading the eBook. Ensuring that the book reads correctly and that there aren’t any startling oversights before it goes to PG.

Interested in online volunteering and have a passion for books?

Become a proofreading volunteer.

If you love reading or are a new proofreading professional, I encourage you to volunteer for Distributed Proofreaders. I’m incredibly happy that I found the site. Not only do I feel useful, but the idea and the opportunity of making these books freely available at PG is a wonderful and altruistic way to spend my free time. Please feel free to join us. I assure you that you’ll be made most welcome.

All you need to do is register on the website as a volunteer. After becoming familiar with DP’s proofreading guidelines, pick the projects you prefer from those available and start proofreading. How much time you dedicate to this online volunteering position is up to you, but any time you contribute matters!

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