I came across a Nineties museum catalogue about the Art of the Book, with a page on ‘Electronic Publications.’ This got me thinking about the predecessors of modern ereaders.

The museum’s ‘Electronic Publications’ tend to be art books on CD-ROMS or novels on floppy discs. The art books are fairly highbrow stuff, Michelangelo and so on. The novels that made it made onto floppy disk include Jurassic Park and the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

A particularly strange early ereader is the Sony Discman. It looks like a bulky flip phone with the screen of a graphics calculator. The catalogue says it takes 8cm discs, and can store 200 megabytes of pictures, sound and text.

The strangest ebook I know about is the the King James Bible for Gameboy, an unlicensed cartridge produced by the Christian company Wisdom Tree. It contains the entire text of the King James Bible and two minigames. A Youtube video shows that the bible cartridge’s bulky shape makes it incompatible with the Gamebody Advance. The Gameboy Bible has a review and even a walk-through on Gamefaqs!

All of these strange devices show that ereaders were an inevitability, even without e-ink.


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