In Angela’s first design, smaller amount of text was printed onto spools and were operated by compressed air. She made her first prototype in 1949. While this book was not electronic it is still hailed as the first automated reader. Though her project never got picked up for mass production and she could not get a viable patent on the design, but there is a photograph of her holding it back in 1949.
The invention of the internet was the next huge step forward in the journey of e-books. With the advent of the internet, information sharing, and file sharing became easier, which in turn boosted the acceptance and expansion of e-books.
Interesting is this 1971 story of Michael Hart, a student at the University of Illinois, who was later to be credited for ‘inventing’ e-book. As destiny had designed, Hart got an unlimited access to the computer time on a huge Xerox mainframe computer in the Materials Research lab. The machine, which was hitherto used primarily for data processing, but was also connected to ARPAnet, a part of what would later become the internet!
One good thing coincided with another good thing. Hart got his inspiration in form of a copy of the Declaration of Independence at a grocery store on July 4th. He typed the text into a computer, all in capitals as there was no lower-case option at the time and sent out a message on ARPAnet saying that it was now available to download. Six people took him up on the offer and downloaded the text.
The world’s first e-book was born!
The next milestone in the journey of e-books came in 1987. It was around this time that a computer games creators company – East Gate Systems – published the first hypertext fiction work. The first hyper textbook was titled Afternoon by Michael Joyce and was available for purchase on a floppy disk. This book was created as the first demonstration of a new online program called ‘Story Space’ (a software program available for personal computers for creating, editing and reading hypertext fiction)
In 1993, BiblioBytes launched a website to sell e-books over the internet, the first company to create a financial exchange system for the net. American publisher Simon & Schuster creating a new imprint, iBooks, and thereby becoming the first trade publisher simultaneously to publish titles in ebook and print format in 1999. Oxford University Press, too jumped into the bandwagon, offering a selection of its books over the internet through netLibrary.
The years 1999 to 2002 saw the launch of Rocket e-book, Microsoft Reader, and in 2002 the “Palm Tree” was invented to make books readable on the Smartphone. It was a great revolution enabling mobile people to read while on the move. Kindle started its inventing journey in 2007 when it made e-books downloadable and readable anywhere. The innovative pursuits of Kindle in making e-books more accessible continue still today.