Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Inventor of the Ebook

Who invented the ebook - a book in digital form that could be read, stored and transmitted via a computer?

I'll tell you one thing - it wasn't Jeff Bezos!

You may never have heard of Michael S. Hart, but he'd generally considered to have originated the concept of computer based books - back in 1971! Michael founded the Gutenberg Project, a non-profit effort to digitize as much of the world's literature as possible, and make it available free of charge in ebook format.

Michael died last year (you can read his obituary here) but his work lives on. The Gutenberg Project currently offers over 40,000 titles, in various digital formats, with more being added all the time. (Thirty books had been added in the last twenty four hours, when I checked earlier today!)

I had the notion recently that I wanted to reread Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, two favorites from my teens. I hopped over to the Gutenberg site and in ten minutes I had both titles on my tablet.

Today I needed some text from Emma. Gutenberg came through, once again. But Gutenberg offers a lot more than classics. Contemporary authors can offer their books free as well. And now Gutenberg has a self-publishing portal to help authors prepare books for free distribution.

So next time you're complaining that you have nothing to read, and that you've used up your book budget for the month, check out the Gutenberg Project. I guarantee you'll find something of interest - and it won't cost you a red cent (though donations to the project are always welcome).

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