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E-book Micro History

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December 28, 2012 by S. K. Stewart

Project Guttenberg was one of the first to take advantage of the electronic publishing. scroll_variationsMichael Hart developed the idea of putting books and documents in electronic format for all to have in 1971. In the beginning, he used the most basic form that was readable by all types of computers, ASCII text. Over the years, Project Guttenberg has expanded to include all e-reader types. The goal of Project Guttenberg is to have all public domain books available to the general public.

In the beginning there was only one way to read anything electronic – on the computer. At first there was a lot of confusion between computer brands. Windows systems (or lovingly known as PC now) wouldn’t read something from a Mac. Mac had an aversion to anything PC.

Computer geniuses somewhere, probably in the dark, solved the problem by creating file formats that each system liked: RTF and PDF. But, the problem of having to sit at a computer and read still existed. Or, the other alternative is to print out the document, which in the case of a book could be hundreds of pages. Sometimes printing the entire book cost more than just buying the paperback.

Then Sony came up with a better idea – the e-reader named the Data Discman. This device used books on CDs. At the time, 1992 (pre-historic in technology time), most of the books were technical manuals. In 2006, Sony produced the first e-reader that downloaded material directly to the device. A year later Amazon released the Kindle, and as the trite saying goes, “The rest is history.”

In that ancient time, five and six years ago, many of us (I do include myself) didn’t think e-books would become a revolution. I didn’t own my first e-reader until 2010, even though I published an e-book in 2005.

Since the introduction of the Sony e-reader and Kindle, several other companies have created their own version. Still several are still file specific–reading only their brand’s files. Most e-reader brands now have an application, except Apple’s iBooks, so their e-product can be read on multiple devices.

Readers are expecting more from all books. I’m seeing more books, especially non-fiction are coming with CDs with extra content and/or exclusive online content. I believe this is an attempt to make print books more attractive to readers. What is it about e-books that make them so appealing?

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