Four Decades of Digital Books

  • First digital book

    First digital book
    College student Michael S. Hart kicks off a new era in reading and creates the first digital book by typing the Declaration of Independence into a computer at the University of Illinois. Hart soon founded Project Gutenberg, the ongoing initiative to convert the world's written works to electronic formats for free, public use.
  • Hypertext publishing starts

    Hypertext publishing starts
    Eastgate Systems publishes and distributes Michael Joyce's "afternoon, a story," on diskettes. Considered the first work of electronic literature, the hypertext form allows readers to interact with the story through links.
  • Will on the Web

    Will on the Web
    Project Gutenberg releases its 100th e-book: the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
  • Amazon offers online book-buying

    Amazon offers online book-buying
    The new online bookstore founded by Jeff Bezos,, sells its first text through the Internet: a science textbook. What began as "Earth's biggest bookstore" today dominates web sales of everything from toys and furniture to tablets and e-novels.
  • Electronic ink goes incorporated

    Electronic ink goes incorporated
    With roots at the MIT Media Lab, E Ink Corporation takes flight to bring electronic ink and paper-based products to the market. E Ink creates technology for e-books, from the Kindle to the Nook.
  • A new standard: ISBNs for e-books

    A new standard: ISBNs for e-books
    Shortly after obtaining the first ISBN for a digital book, publisher Kim Blagg brings e-reading to the Boox Expo America in Chicago. A year later, Blagg founded Books on Screen to publish and distribute authors' works on CDs. "Electronic books are creating an entirely new reading environment," Blagg told the Tuscaloosa News in 2000.
  • Early e-books enter public eye

    Early e-books enter public eye
    The Associated Press heralds the beginning of e-readers, devices dedicated for digital books. In the fall of 1998, two of the original e-readers lit up literature for the first time: the Rocket eBook and the Softbook Reader.
  • Updating laws for the digital age

    Updating laws for the digital age
    As downloads of digital media soar, President Bill Clinton signs the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, criminalizing efforts to skirt measures that protect copyrighted material. Figuring out how to regulate intellectual property rights in an online age persists as one of the chief legal issues with digital media.
  • Adobe unites publishers and PDFs

    Adobe unites publishers and PDFs
    Adobe launches a website to sell downloadable PDF versions of books, magazines and other materials. The Adobe Digital Media Store carried content from major publishers, including Random House and HarperCollins.
  • Google sued by U.S. authors

    Google sued by U.S. authors
    The Authors Guild, which represents more than 8,000 published authors in the United States, sues Google for copyright infringement in the company's Google Print Library Project. Though agreements with university and public libraries, Google was scanning published materials (without authors' consent) to create an online database.
  • Amazon Kindle lifts off

    Amazon Kindle lifts off
    At a launch event in New York City, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos introduces the company's new e-reader: the Amazon Kindle. After three years of development, the much anticipated device boasted 90,000 downloadable digital books, most for less than $10 each. The device's success exceeded expectations: within a year, Amazon sold out of the debut version, just before the holiday gift-buying season.
  • Re-Kindling the e-reading scene

    Re-Kindling the e-reading scene
    Less than two years after launching its first e-reading device, delivers the next round: Kindle 2. The updated gadget offered better memory and web browsing features.
  • A Nook in a growing market

    A Nook in a growing market
    Bookstore titan Barnes & Noble launches the Nook, an e-reading device designed for the company's products.
  • Borders goes bankrupt

    Borders goes bankrupt
    Borders, the 40-year-old book retail giant, files for bankruptcy. With dwindling sales in-store and online, the company announces plans to close at least a third of its more than 650 stores nationwide.
  • Online e-book market outpaces print

    Online e-book market outpaces print
    Electronic book sales surpass all printed versions at for the first time. In July 2010, the company announced that e-book sales had overtaken hardcovers; by January 2011, digital books were out-selling paperbacks as well.
  • Bye, Borders

    Bye, Borders
    After announcing plans to liquidate its stores in July, Borders finally shuts the doors on its remaining stores.
  • Amazon announces publishing venture

    Amazon announces publishing venture begins signing deals directly with authors to publish and sell their work online, pitting the web retailer against traditional publishing houses. The news sparked intense debate on the "one-stop shop" model of creating and selling material.
  • Free e-library debuts

    Free e-library debuts announces a new service: the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. Available to those enrolled in the company's Prime membership program, the library is the first to offer e-reader users free content to borrow - with no due dates.