History of e-book readers and beyond

The oldest digital library, Project Gutenberg, was founded in 1971. The first digitized work created by Project Gutenberg was the Declaration of Independence. Project Gutenberg is still going strong today with over 100,000 titles and 30,000 available for free.

Digitized books were great, but they had to be read on a computer. Then, in 1998, the first portable e-book readers were introduced. The eBook Reader and Rocket eBook pioneered portable eBook reading.

Gemstar bought the rights to these two eBook readers and even promoted their version on Oprah. But with a limited selection of books, conflicting formats, and high prices, even Oprah couldn’t usher in the first e-book readers.

In 1999, Franklin introduced the eBookman, which also had a PDA function and could play and record sounds.

Philips also created an e-book reader that pioneered the use of e-paper with e-ink. In 2006, Sony introduced its first e-book reader, the Sony Reader, which included electronic ink. Sony also has its own e-book store.

With sophisticated handheld devices and e-books available, portable e-book readers are starting to catch on and become a viable option. The following year, in 2007, Amazon launched the Kindle in the United States.

What made the Kindle revolutionary was that it had built in a wireless network called whisper and was backed by the great selection of e-books in the Amazon store. Plus, with the click of a button, you can purchase and download an eBook in 60 seconds. Because your Amazon Kindle was linked to your Amazon account, you didn’t have to worry about payments and credit cards.

Another nice feature of the Kindle is that you can download the beginning of any Kindle eBook for free. So there’s no excuse for buying a book you don’t really want to read.

In October 2008, the Kindle got a kick in the pants when Jeff Bezos appeared on Oprah, with the Kindle. Oprah claimed the Kindle was her new favorite device and Kindles were handed out to the audience.

After The Oprah Show, the Kindle went out of print, remaining out of print and on hold until the Kindle 2 was introduced in 2009. The Kindle 2 was an improvement over the first Kindle, with a slightly sleeker look, and more vivid text. and better storage and battery capacity.

Months later, Amazon introduced the Kindle DX, which is similar to the Kindle 2. The DX is larger and has better resolution, higher memory and battery capacity, and can read native PDF files. In addition, the screen can rotate from portrait to landscape view, making it easy to view tables and graphs.

The new big-screen Kindle is rumored to lead the way in the Kindle textbook market. Imagine saving money on textbooks, carrying everything in one lightweight device, and no more long lines at bookstores.

IRex also makes a large-screen digital reader, it costs about $400 more than the Kindle DX and has a touchscreen that can be marked with a digital pen.

Where there is a market there is competition. As digital readers evolve, they will become more ubiquitous—think iPod. These days, most eBook readers are still for early adopters. Although, there have been some informal studies that show the Kindle demographic is an older crowd.

This could be because older people like to read more or have more time and income available. Some even speculate that it is due to the adjustable text size on the Kindle. No glasses no problem.

Whatever the reason, as available books and functionality increase while prices drop at the same time, a tipping point will be reached. And having an e-book reader will be as common as having an iPod or a cell phone.

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