If we consider an electronic book to be an non-printed book that is only "readable" via an electronic device. Which book is the first book to be published electronically?

According to Wikipedia "The NLS was established by an act of Congress in 1931 amended in 1934 to include sound recordings, talking books.". It seems reasonable to assume that the first ebook was published in the early 1900's, so what was it?

1 Answer 1


Even though you tried to specify it, the answer still depends a lot on your definition of "book" and "electronic device". Wikipedia has a whole section on History of Ebooks. The quoted term "talking books" most likely refers to something we would call "Audiobooks" today, which even preceded the invention of electronics. Wikipedia on Gramophone Records

On electronics: The thermionic triode was invented in 1906, the transistor was invented in 1925, and the first programmable computer (Zuse's Z3) was built in 1941. Anything that we would consider a "book" needs significant storage space - a single page of text is about 10000 bits of data. Early electronics were not capable of anything of that sort. So the "early 1900s" is not a reasonable assumption.

You also mention "to be published"... that is a different matter entirely. Project Gutenberg started in the 1971, commercial publishers followed later.

  • When was a book foist written on a word processor? I think in late 1950's most of Cambridge University's mainframe CPU was taken up by word processing so when did that start? they would include PhD theses which are published, just with a smaller audience
    – mmmmmm
    Feb 24, 2014 at 1:39
  • @Mark If you replace "book" with "novel", then this has the answer (writing started in 1968, published 1970): slate.com/articles/arts/books/2013/03/… I'm sure there were documents written on word processors before that, but it would be difficult to find one that qualifies as a "book".
    – Hazzit
    Mar 4, 2014 at 18:33

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