It is shocking how we forget — I can never remember when it was I first got a computer on my desk at work. I do remember it was a Mac Classic, which is also the one I first got at home. I still have it in fact, and the last time I fired it up (which must have been about 1999!) it did actually work. It must have been in the late eighties when computers first came to the office I think.

So when was the first e-book published? The Guardian has a story indicating the uncertainty surrounding what would seem a fairly unambiguous event. They mention Host by Peter James on two floppy disks in 1993, and billed then as “the world’s first electronic novel”. It has been placed in the Science Museum as “one of the earliest examples of the form”. I actually own an earlier example: Afternoon: A story (maybe that means it’s not a novel?) by Michael Joyce, which is © 1990, though I didn’t buy it till 1996. But Project Gutenberg had started putting texts on-line by 1971. The Grolier Encyclopedia was available on CD-ROM in 1985, and the Oxford English Dictionary in 1989. And who remembers the Franklin book reader issued in 1989?

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