Monday, March 3, 2014

Filmbook the ebook’s granddaddy Read an Ebook Week 2014

This week we celebrate the ebook. The last few years have seen a drastic change in the publishing industry thanks to the growing popularity and convenience of this simple invention.

1923 Optigraph 
But ebooks aren’t something new fangled. They’ve been around for a very long time. In 1923 the International Filmbook Corporation patented an early microfilm reader, the Optigraph Reading Machine. Books were photographed onto microfilm and wound into cartridges that were inserted into the machine and the image mirrored and reflected onto the reading glass. Readers moved through the pages turning a crank on the side of the machine. 

In 1936 ‘canned libraries’ were introduced in the form of a microfilm reader called the Teledex. Books and other media were put into cartridges the size of a 12-gauge shotgun shell that was inserted into the machine and the ‘filmbook’ projected onto a screen for reading. The idea of this canned library was to save space for schools and smaller community libraries. 

1936 Teledex
In 1945 scientist Vannevar Bush introduced the world to his idea for condensing entire libraries into one machine called a Memex. In his Atlantic Monthly article, As We May Think, he describes the method in which books and other media are compressed onto microfilm. Bush says, “Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of a mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, “memex” will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.”

 Bush’s idea differed in that individuals, such as authors could write directly into the machine to save their work onto microfilm. (Anyone else getting a Steampunk vibe here?) This device wasn’t very portable, though. The machine and all of the content were constructed into a desk. Instead of the filmbook cartridge, the Memex stored all the volumes in the body of the machine. Like a computer and hard drive today.
1945 Bush's Memex machine
As computers developed into more efficient storage devices inventions such as the 1968 DynaBook. The DynaBook looked like a giant Kindle with a grayscale screen and keyboard. Books or documents stored on the 2lb device could be read. Later, Toshiba would use this design to create one of the first laptops.

I’m sure early librarians, authors, and readers went through the same emotions and conflicts over their precious volumes being squished into these shotgun shell cartridges that we have felt in recent years with the explosion of the ebook market.

1968 DynaBook
Filmbooks and ebooks will never be able to fully take the place of a print book. After all the elevator hasn’t taken out the necessity of stairs. Even in Star Trek they still collected and coveted their printed volumes. The ebooks and ereaders are just another way of enjoying the timeless stories we’ve always loved. Aren't you glad you can sit on the beach and relax with your Kindle or Nook instead of pulling out your Optigraph or Telex? 

In celebration of Read an Ebook Week, my books Don’t Touch and Half will be 50% off on Smashwords March 3rd - 8th. Just use the code REW50 at checkout to get your discount off my and other fantastic reads this week.

2014 Kindle Paper White
My ebook reading this week will be finishing up the Numbers Game by John Stanley then Dark Murders Collection by Carolyn McCray and Ben Hopkins. So what ebook are you reading? Do you prefer ebook or print book? How do you read your ebooks? 

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