I wish I had a more exciting answer for your first question. It all started as an experiment. I wanted to learn the ins and outs of electronic publishing—what better way than to actually try to do it from scratch with your bare hands?
If you want to read a couple of passages from Charles Dickens to your child one night, you are not likely to run out to buy a paperback. However, we do have immediate access to the works of Dickens, and thousands of other classics, without cost and without the inconvenience of leaving home. Project Gutenberg, along with other sites, provides this amazing service that is pretty much taken for granted.