The (abridged) e-book of Genesis

How Apple, Stephen King, and Kindle begot a revolution
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  February 17, 2010


Holy Scrollers! The future of e-publishing can be found in one of the world's oldest books.
In the beginning . . . Steve Jobs created Newton, Apple's groundbreaking Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), which was introduced in 1993 to moderate reception. About three times the size of an iPhone — but phone-less — Newton featured, among other things, handwriting-recognition software that made for futuristic scheduling and note taking.

And the evening and the morning were the second day, roughly the late '90s, when several e-book predecessors emerged in the form of CD-Rom and online editions. Drawing particular fervor were Project Gutenberg's several thousand Web titles and Stephen King's watershed digital-only Riding the Bullet novella in 2000.

And God blessed them, saying be fruitful and multiply. Starting around 2002, portable Pocket PCs and PDAs began to infiltrate the high-tech universe. The e-book game changed dramatically when such units as the pocket-friendly Dell Axim and Palm Treo began supporting guides, manuals, and romance novels — all of which proliferated in digital formats early on.

And God created great whales, and every living feature that moveth, which the developers brought forth abundantly. In 2006, Sony introduced its Reader, the world's first full-fledged electronic book. From there, the race was on: Amazon's much-hyped Kindle arrived in late 2007, and by the end of 2008 more than one million e-readers had been sold, thanks to model variety and a loud endorsement from Lady Literacy herself, Oprah Winfrey.

And then God said, "Let there be backlight." In March 2009, Fujitsu brought forth FLEPia, the world's first all-color e-reader. Seven months later, Barnes & Noble arrived with the forward-thinking Nook. Unlike the Kindle, which allows customers to read only proprietary AZW files, the critically applauded (and partially colorized) Nook (like Sony's Reader) supports multiple extensions, including PDF and the popular, emerging standard, EPUB.

So Jobs created iPad in Nook's image, saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.

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