E-books: History

reading devicesA brief, selective history of publishing and e-book developments.

Wikipedia: books; History of books; Publishing; E-book

scribes vision


ereader of 1935


  • 1935: Smithsonian Paleofuture: The iPad of 1935 3/2012
  • 1938: World Brain [ebook version] by H. G. Wells. "Without a World Encyclopaedia to hold men's minds together in something like a common interpretation of reality, there is no hope whatever of anything but an accidental and transitory alleviation of any of our world troubles...The time is close at hand, when any student, in any part of the world, will be able to sit with his projector in his own study at his or her convenience to examine any book, any document, in an exact replica."
  • 1939: How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read Half a century before e-books turned publishing upside down, a different format threatened to destroy the industry; PocketBooks; 8/12/2012
  • memex1945: Vannevar Bush: As We May Think, Memex [animation: 2:30]; "[The Memex is a] sort of mechanized private file and library...a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory." Wired article
  • 1946: ENIAC
  • electronic library1947: Making Books (video; 9:55)
  • 1959: [image: Home Electronic Library]


  • 1960: Project Xanadu: "Hypertext", "Hypermedia"
  • stone wheel late adopter1961: electronic book store in Return from the Stars by Stanislaw Lem: "I spent the afternoon in a bookstore. There were no books in it. None had been printed for nearly half a century. And how I have looked forward to them, after the micro films that made up the library of the Prometheus! No such luck. No longer was it possible to browse among shelves, to weigh volumes in hand, to feel their heft, the promise of ponderous reading. The bookstore resembled, instead, an electronic laboratory. The books were crystals with recorded contents. They can be read the aid of an opton, which was similar to a book but had only one page between the covers. At a touch, successive pages of the text appeared on it. But optons were little used, the sales-robot told me. The public preferred lectons - like lectons read out loud, they could be set to any voice, tempo, and modulation. Only scientific publications having a very limited distribution were still printed, on a plastic imitation paper. Thus all my purchases fitted into one pocket, though there must have been almost three hundred titles. My handful of crystal corn - my books... The robot that served me was itself an encyclopedia, in that - as it told me - it was linked directly, through electronic catalogs, to templates of every book on earth. As a rule, a bookstore had only single "copies" of books, and when someone needed a particular book, the contents of the work was recorded in a crystal. The originals - Crystomatrices - were not to be seen; they were kept behind pale blue enamel the steel plates. So a book was printed, as it were, every time someone needed it. The question of printings, of their quantity, of their running out, had ceased to exist. Actually, a great achievement, and yet I regretted the passing of books."
  • space odyssey tablet1962: The Robot Who Wanted To Know, Harry Harrison; A Filer is an amazingly intelligent robot and there aren't many being manufactured. You'll find them only in the greatest libraries, dealing with only the largest and most complex collections. To call them simply librarians is to demean all librarians and to call their work simple. Of course very little intelligence is needed to shelve books or stamp cards, but this sort of work has long been handled by robots that are little more than wheeled IBM machines. The cataloging of human information has always been an incredibly complex task. The Filer robots were the ones who finally inherited the job. It rested easier on their metallic shoulders, than it ever had on the rounded ones of human librarians.
  • 1968: Looking at sci-fi tech as prior art: 2001: A Space Odyssey tablet computing; 8/29/2011
  • video 4/2/2012
  • NLS (oN-Line System) (links, mouse, windows at SRI)
  • just booksFRESS (File Retrieval and Editing SyStem) hypertext manuals at Brown Univ.
  • Galaxy Tab 10.1 vs. iPad 2 vs. Clarke's Newspad 5/13/2011
  • 1969: ARPAnet; Internet: History: 1960s

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