Michael Hart, Inventor of eBooks Dies

Michael Hart predicted eBooks, low cost electronic distribution, automatic translation, and started Project Gutenberg, the website where you can download and read over 36,000 free public domain books.

From his obituary on Project Gutenberg:

Michael S. Hart left a major mark on the world. The invention of eBooks was not simply a technological innovation or precursor to the modern information environment. A more correct understanding is that eBooks are an efficient and effective way of unlimited free distribution of literature. Access to eBooks can thus provide opportunity for increased literacy. Literacy, and the ideas contained in literature, creates opportunity.

Michael Hart came up with the revelation while sitting at a computer terminal and decided to spam his friends by typing the entire text of the Declaration of Independence into a message in 1971. He received a free paper copy of the Declaration, and realized that distributing it over ARPANET would be more efficient.

And he was right. This recent infographic from GOOD shows that people who own eReaders buy and read more books every year than those who rely on paper.

These days, people are reading more online and less paper. Even colleges are moving towards electronic textbooks to reduce costs. Michael Hart is the one to thank for this.