A Short History Of Ebooks

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If I asked you how long ebooks have been around. 4 years? 5 years? A few might even say 10+ years. If I told you that ebooks have been around for 40 years, you’d ask what the heck have I been smoking?

Yes, ebooks have been around in one form or another for 40 years.

My personal experience with ebooks began in 2000 during a shopping excursion with some friends. I saw a stack CD-Roms in one of those ‘impulse buy’ displays.

It had over 100 classic novels on it. I asked my friend how they could get so many books on one disc. He said that text files are very small and take up virtually no memory.

I was intrigued and bought the CD-Rom. I loaded it onto my old Compaq Presario laptop when I got home. All the book titles were in one long list. When I clicked on a title, the book showed up with virtually no formatting. There were paragraph breaks, and that was about it.

Needless to say I never actually read an entire book on my laptop from that CD-Rom. But that’s when the idea of buying and selling books in digital format really stuck into my head. I’ve been obsessed ever since.

Ebooks have been around a lot longer than a decade. According to one of my favorite ebook blogs, Teleread, the first ebook appeared in 1971:

Michael S. Hart launches Project Gutenberg and digitizes the United States Declaration of Independence, which becomes the first ebook in the world.

The world wouldn’t see a dedicated ebook reader until 1998. In 1993, digital books were offered on floppy discs. It’s amazing to think that I bought my first eReader in 2007, the Sony PRS-500. At the time, it was the best on the market.

Now we have the Kindle, Nook and a host of others. I’m guessing in a decade all these devices will be obsolete and we’ll be laughing at how primitive they were.

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