A project to digitise the entire works of Leo Tolstoy – named All of Tolstoy in One Click – making them available for tablets and smartphones, turned out to be lighter work than expected for the Tolstoy Museum in Moscow, when thousands of readers from all over the world responded to a call for volunteers.
The full set of Tolstoy's works includes the 90-volume standard collection, plus rare stories, novels, diaries and letters held by the museum and the family estate, Yasnaya Polyana, in Tula.
"Of course we realised there are some novels on the internet," Fyokla Tolstaya, Tolstoy's great-great-granddaughter told The New Yorker. "But most [writings] are not. We in the museum decided this is not good. The museum wants to be more open to people, particularly young people, to help Tolstoy's heritage. We decided to make it really easy to use – compatible with iPad, e-reader, Kindle."
ABBYY FineReader provided the technology, but the cost of proofreading the texts in ebook format threatened to halt the project. Instead, readers from 49 countries – including Russia, the US, Germany, New Zealand, Peru and Thailand – came forward to help transcribe and proofread the works. The volunteers, spanning professions from engineers and IT professionals to doctors, teachers, geologists and linguists, signed up at www.readingtolstoy.ru, and galloped through 46,000 pages in just two weeks.
The Russian State Library had already scanned Tolstoy's 90-volume collected works, but they are not available as ebook downloads, and other writings such as rare stories and letters have not been digitised before. In the UK, English language ebook versions of classics such as War and Peace are sold at low prices, but as yet are not readily available free of charge. The works will in the future be downloadable from the website, http://tolstoy.ru (an English-language version is under construction).
"At the end of his life, Tolstoy said: 'I don't need any money for my work. I want to give my work to the people,' " said Tolstaya. "It was important for us to make it free for everyone. It is his will."