First ebook
Michael Hart, Declaration of Independence
first first
United States (Urbana-Champaign)

The first ebook was a copy of the United States Declaration of Independence, all 1,300 words of which were typed up on a Xerox Sigma V mainframe by University of Illinois student Michael Hart on 4 July 1971. He publicised the existence of this file, which was accessible to anyone connected to the ARPAnet (an early version of the internet) on various newsgroups. He later added a hand-typed copy of the Bible, the works of Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland. These simple plain-text files (written in ALL CAPS because of file format limitations) would become the nucleus of the Project Gutenberg public-domain ebook service, which Hart worked on until his death in 2011.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, computing pioneers Douglas Engelbart, Andries van Dam and Ted Nelson developed the first hypertext systems at SRI International and Brown University. These were the first frameworks designed to store and link written documents digitally, but they were designed for technical documentation, rather than books, and their complexity (for the time) meant that they were not used to distribute material (van Dam and Nelson's FRESS system was only installed on one machine in a Brown University computer lab).