Today, the digital revolution has not left books aside and we have already stopped accumulating them on paper and storing them in large libraries to be able to contain millions of books in simple electronic devices. Although for many it is not a substitute for height, an eReader helps us to always have everything at hand without carrying weight. Millions of pages on a device that fits in your pocket. E-books make life easier for us and they have been a revolution, also from the cultural point of view. Its beginnings, its boom and the different machines that have been used are part of its history.

eReader and eBook, concepts

The electronic book is one of the great advances in technology. The digitization of books and their transition from paper to screen has led to a multitude of improvements, such as the possibility of creating huge libraries without the need for large spaces or the option of offering thousands of free books without the need to physically purchase them, with Project Gutenberg that later we will know in depth in the center of some of these advances.

Although they are confused and are often called the same, the electronic book is not the same as the electronic book reader. We don’t always enter into differentiation between eBook and eReader although there are clear differences between them. One is the electronic publication of a book and the other the device that allows its reading. However, nowadays one and the other are so closely linked that the e-reader is commonly called an e-book. Their history is also linked, as is logical, so we are going to review the legacy of one and the other indistinctly, understanding as an ‘electronic book’ both: reader and work.

History of the electronic book

Angela Ruiz Robles is spoken of as the first person who had the idea of create an e-book, in the late 1940s in Spain, although in his case it was more of a mechanical book. It was about one kind of suitcase that opened in two and it showed, on one side, a series of reels in which the themes of the different subjects were wound, such as English, French or Spanish grammar. In the other part of the book there was a series of letters and numbers that, through pressure, made it possible to form words or texts.

Angela Ruiz Robles wanted to lighten the enormous load of books that children brought to school, in addition to improving their abilities with less effort. However, lack of funding made it impossible for her invention to develop and it was left in little more than a prototype. Over the years it has claimed her figure as an inventor and it has been called as the precursor of the electronic book that we know today.

Years later, and with the financial help that the Galician educator lacked, a student from the University of Illinois was able to launch a project that has survived to this day and that is more like what we all know as an electronic book . The Gutenberg Project.

Gutenberg Project

Devised and founded by the writer and philanthropist Michael S. Hart in 1971, it is the oldest digital library in the world. The Gutenberg Project followed and follows a very basic and simple rule: create a large free library with electronic books in the public domain, that is, those works whose rights have already expired or for which authorization has been obtained from the author to pass into the domain. public. Those works, digitized, are then offered free to the public.

At the beginning, this digitization of the works had to be done manually, copying the texts that were to be transferred from paper to the computer. Later the system has been modernized and allows the passage of books to their digital version faster. Today, Project Gutenberg has more than 60,000 titles downloadable through its website, which continues to function and increase the size of the world’s oldest digital library.

Gutemberg project - e-book history

These books are distributed over the Internet and, at first, they had to be read like this too, on a computer. These long texts were difficult to read on those screens and the pain in the eyes was unbearable. Although we can already talk about electronic books, since they are digitized, we do not have a specific electronic book reader. Although there were several attempts to achieve this, the backlit screen readers failed to improve the effect of reading on a computer and could not produce a huge boom in e-books. Until an invention changed everything: electronic ink.

Electronic ink and current e-readers

Although there were several previous attempts, even by prominent brands such as Sony, to bring an e-book reader to the market, the LCD and feedback screens that served as a test were not accepted by the vast majority of users, since reading them involved an effort to the sight and a fatigue that made it not worth leaving the book on paper for these readers. Some examples are the Sony Data Discman or Bookman, the Softbook or the Rocket e-book. All of them ended up failing because of their price or weight, but also because of the discomfort of reading on their screens.


Until the great revolution that has allowed the rise and expansion of this type of reader, electronic ink. E-Ink is the result of an MIT research, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and represents a huge evolution for e-book readers as it allows better reading and low consumption, since the device only consumes when you go from one page to another. In addition, no need backlight, its size may be reduced. They are flatter and more manageable than previous hulks.

Rocketebook - Electronic Book History

The big difference between current e-readers and other similar devices such as tablets of any brand it’s your electronic ink. This ink does not damage sight when reading, our eyes do not suffer. Beyond sizes smaller on devices and more manageable, the main difference from electronic ink is that it consumes less but above all that it is much more comfortable for us because it closely resembles a paper book without the need for “screens” that can be detrimental to our vision in the long run.


The Amazon Kindle

In this context and with the expansion of electronic ink, appears the device that would forever change the history of e-books and e-readers, the Amazon Kindle. It was not the first but it was one of the most relevant in the history of the electronic book since its inception, as we know it, until today. Although there are many models that have arrived since its launch and from many different brands, Amazon’s is the most popular and the most widespread.

kindle 2016 2

This reader of the Amazon brand is the best known and already has several generations and many innovations, but since its inception in the market it was an absolute success thanks to the possibilities it allowed. Released in 2007, the first-generation Kindle had a six-inch screen, used E-Ink technology, and had an internal memory of 256 MB. In addition, at the bottom it had a keyboard that will not disappear until the fourth generation, in 2011.

The Kindle also has the great advantage of being connected to the Amazon service, so we can buy books at a lower price than on paper, directly from our Kindle, and start reading them immediately. The Internet sales giant has a vast catalog of electronic books that are downloaded instantly to our reader and offers various payment services such as Prime Reading or Kindle Unlimited that will serve as a ‘flat rate’ for buying books, as we will explain in next paragraphs.

E-book today

At present, the new generations of Kindle continue to be a success and dominate the market despite the appearance of other e-readers such as Kobo or the emergence of Apple or Google, which also have their own e-book purchase services to be read on your devices.

The most popular are those from Amazon but they are not the only ones we find in the market. In fact, if you want to buy them in a physical store, it is not usual that you can get a Kindle but you can get other models. They stand out for a low price that does not usually exceed 100 euros and we find the Woxter brand, of Energy System, from Kobos or Tagus. These four, along with the Kindle, are the most common on the market and practically all have the same characteristics: light weight, internal storage for thousands of books and a battery capable of lasting one or two weeks without having to charge them.


Some models are “associated” with libraries or chains. This is the case of Tagus, for example, the electronic book “adventure” of the La Casa del Libro chain of bookstores. It is a private brand that allows you to buy books online but also in bookstores where you can buy ebooks to include them on the device.

The electronic book currently offers us infinite options, but its great advantages are two: the comfort and ease of use and its large storage with millions of books. It is comfortable, it weighs little, it usually has WiFi to download what we want and it is increasingly common for them to be water resistant so we can take them wherever we want without worrying about spoiling. In addition, batteries often give us weeks of use on a single charge.

Electronic Libraries

Adapting to the times and as a complement to the electronic book, electronic libraries have arrived, a kind of Spotify or Netflix with which we can get unlimited books in exchange for a monthly price. They have become popular in recent years. At the beginning of electronic books, getting them involved buying and sending them through a cable or from their own website, but more and more services and platforms offer us options adapted to the times. This is the case, for example, of 24Symbols that for less than 10 euros per month allows us access to almost a million books or audiobooks that we can use unlimitedly not only on devices such as the Kindle but also in apps.

In Spain, Nubico is another of these electronic libraries that offer us to pay a monthly amount in exchange for books, although it has the problem of not being compatible with the Amazon service. It is designed for the eReader itself with Nubico, which are usually from the BQ brand and the Energy System brand.

Prime Reading

Prime Reading and Unlimited

Amazon also has its own electronic libraries beyond a huge Kindle store with millions of titles in any language. But it has Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited, two payment services that allow us to access thousands of titles in exchange for a price per month. Prime Reading is included in the Amazon Prime subscription for all customers and Kindle Unlimited is priced at 9.99 euros per month independently. The difference between the two is the number of books since the second offers more than one million and a much larger catalog than the one included in the subscription of 36 euros per year. These ways of reading make us have a wide range of possibilities to read what we want and that the electronic book is an excellent idea.