A short history of ebooks
The term ebook is the shortcut from electronic book, also known as digital book, a concept that was launched years ago and developed with the evolution of technology. Nowadays, people can read or buy ebook online, in the comfort of their homes, without having to walk miles to reach the closest library, as it used to happen thousands of years ago. These publications appear in digital form, and are easily accessed from any type of device, whether it is a mobile phone, laptop, PC or other electronic device. While some a wide definition of the concept would involve the fact that the ebook has a printed correspondent, this is not always true, since some people decide to publish an ebook instead of a traditional one, from various reasons. Nowadays, there are various online platforms offering readers not only the possibility to read online, but also to buy and download the books, not to mention that sometimes, they can even interact via the live chat feature available. In the past years, this industry has developed a lot. For instance, by 2014 in the US, about 28% of the adult population had already read at least once an ebook – which means an increase of more than 5%, as compared to the previous year. This is mainly due to the evolution of mobile devices and of the fact that more and more people have access to a tablet or an e-reader device.
Even if ebooks seem to be products that have only appeared recently, few people are aware of the fact that there is a large history behind them. The first time the idea of digital books appeared was in 1930, when Bob Brown launched ‘The Readies’ after watching his first movie without sound. He claimed that reading was outdated by television, which is why books should be somehow reinvented, in order to regain their popularity. He mentioned the need of an optically pleasant machine that would replace the huge volume of print available at the moment. Even if people were reluctant about his idea, he somehow managed to predict the existence of a device which would enable readers to customize the size, avoid paper waste and save trees, while also providing them with a rich cultural experience. He also talked about how people would buy ebook and about the increasing popularity of this method of reading.
As far as the actual inventor of the first ebook, records are still shady and various alternatives have been presented over the years. For this reason, people could not completely agree on the person who is said to first publish an ebook, but among the candidates we can include Roberto Busa (1940s), Ángela Ruiz Robles (1949), Doug Engelbart and Andries van Dam (1960s) and Michael S. Hart (1971). In terms of implementation, there have been many people who speculated this innovative idea and started to execute electronic copies of different texts. At that moment, digital books could be found remotely, since they were created for speciality areas and for a limited target of readers.
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