An electronic book, or e-book, is a digital reproduction of a physical publication. The earliest example of books produced in an electronic format came in 1971 with Project Gutenberg, a free website dedicated to digitizing works of literature in the public domain. Corporations such as the Voyager Company soon followed with electronic books on CD-ROM. In 1998, the first handheld e-Readers, The Franklin Rocket eBook and the SoftBook, hit the public market. These allowed users to carry multiple books with them on one device for the first time.
Current e-Readers such as the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony Reader possess enough memory to house entire libraries, and they offer thousands of books in the public domain for free. The increasing popularity of e-Readers is attributed to lower prices and the convenience of carrying so many books on one system, as well as the ability to download books from online stores at any time. Newer readers also use special electronic paper displays that closely resemble book pages and are much easier on the eye than standard digital type. However, the high cost of the e-Readers themselves and continued debate over digital rights managements and whether or not a user "owns" or merely "borrows" the books are seen as drawbacks to owning an e-Reader. The fact that not all physical books are available in eBook format is also a concern. Despite this, Amazon announced in May 2011 that their eBooks sales exceeded their physical book sales for the first time. It remains to be seen whether or not digital books in general will eclipse the printed book market.
This Franklin Rocket eBook is an excellent example of one of the first e-Readers commercially available.