Considering the 40th Anniversary of eBooks

by Michael Hart on July 4, 2011
PG News

Michael Hart Discusses PG

How do I love ebooks, let me count the ways:

40 years ago there was only one eBook on the Internet that you could download, and the operators were resistant to an additional eBook being added more than once a year, and it had to be a short one, given the space and bandwidth.

From 1971 to 1976 it was an uphill struggle for permission to put The U.S. Constitution online as an eBook because it was so much larger than all the previous eBooks, but it is still standing as one of the great early Net achievements, not only because it was larger than previous ones but also because the person who made it available was anonymous and remained so in spite of all of my efforts to locate and to send my thanks.

40 years ago…one title available at Project Gutenberg.

Today…one hundred thousand titles available at PG, and 2.1 million available at The World Public Library, and 2.9 million at The Internet Archive, 1.6 million at Wattpad. That’s 6.7 million just off the top of my head and without adding in all of the Google eBooks, which is hard to do as Google doesn’t have an index for counting eBooks.

40 years ago just one language.

Today there are 60 languages at Project Gutenberg, over 100 languages at the PG Consortia Center and also over 100 languages at the World Public Library, and who knows how many at the Internet Archives and Google.

Moving from just one eBook on July 4, 1971 to 100,000 and that’s just counting Project Gutenberg, in 40 years makes one wonder just how many ebooks 40 years from today???

And how many languages….

Personally, I don’t think it will take nearly 40 years to make eBooks of all of the public domain books, newspapers and magazines, etc., that are easy to find, not to forget to add in music, artworks, etc.

I am writing a separate piece about the 50th Anniversary, and will post it next.

Meanwhile, today starts 2011 World eBook Fair, the effort to give away millions of eBooks to millions of people and to publicize the world of eBooks to the world at large. So, set your browsers to, which should be open by 12 noon CDT.

Follow the links to download as many books as you want to and please tell your friends. If your friends don’t surf yet, please be encouraged to make copies for them, and to let them know what is waiting for them when they do surf.

Again my HUGE thanks to all of the 250,000 volunteers who have helped create and distribute these eBooks!!!

Michael S. Hart
Project Gutenberg,
Inventor of eBooks
The World eBook Fair

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Nathan Zeldes July 5, 2011 at 9:23 am

Happy anniversary – and keep the good work up!

We all owe you…