Read an eBook Week: A Brief History and How to Participate

There’s an entire week dedicated to electronic reading in the U.S., all thanks to author Rita Toews. Here’s a brief eBook history and ways to celebrate.

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Read an eBook Week is an annual event that occurs in the first week of March in the United States. The nationally recognized holiday promotes eBook platforms as the major way to publish for authors. During this week, book sellers and authors alike publicize books and entice thousands of readers to purchase or read their books. Discounts are usually offered for eBooks and some people offer their books for no charge at all.

A Brief History of eBooks

Before we dive into the history of Read an eBook Week, we must first discuss the history of eBooks themselves. In 1930, writer Bob Brown came up with the concept for the electronic book. He wrote a manifesto-style book entitled The Readies explaining his idea to advance literature into the same modern-age technology that cinema was using.

In 1949 the first automated reader was invented by Angela Ruiz Robles in Spain. She was a school teacher that came up with the idea after continuously watching students struggle with lugging textbooks back and forth. Her prototype was never patented or picked up for mass consumption, but there is a picture of her holding the device.

Ebook history: Trivia piece
Image via Flickr

In 1971, Michael S. Hart launched Project Gutenberg, which focused on the digitization of books. On July 4, 1971, Hart digitized The Declaration of Independence making it the first ever eBook in the world. In 1998, the first e-readers were launched by NuvoMedia and Softbook Press, Inc.

By 2009, Amazon had released the Kindle and Barnes and Noble released the Nook. By 2013, Amazon reported for the first time ever that sales of eBooks had surpassed their sales of paperback books. From 2013 to present day, eBooks have been a dominating consumption method for readers, authors, and publishers worldwide.

The Birth of Read an eBook Week

In 2004, author Rita Toews presented the idea for Read an eBook Week. Toews had become fed-up with the traditional ways of distribution and publishing. She argued that it was becoming increasingly difficult for new authors to promote their books since so many books were being released, but not recognized by distributors and publishers, and that there had to be another way for these authors’ voices to be heard.

EBooks were still relatively new in 2004 and somewhat unpopular, as many people are adverse to change and appreciate the old ways of the literary world. Toews decided that the best way to get these new authors heard was to establish Read an eBook Week. She began informing TV and radio broadcasting stations, libraries, retailers, other authors, and publishers of her idea and registered the holiday in order to make it authentic.

hands holding an ebook reader
Image via Canva

Toews originally created the holiday to help newer authors get recognized, but over time, it has evolved into a massive marketing scheme used to help not only authors, but retailers, publishers, and e-reading platforms, as well. The holiday allows new authors to market and advertise their books to a much larger audience. It also allows retailers to publicize themselves, and many offer discounts or free eBooks to attract more attention. The holiday itself also helped to establish eBooks as an effective and efficiently easy way of reading for consumers, and helps audiences become more accessible to authors.

The week encourages book lovers to consider the advantages of eBooks, as well, such as the easy accessibility, convenience factor in terms of travel, price (as eBooks tend to be cheaper since they cost less to produce), the customization aspect, and, of course, the fact that eBooks are more environmentally friendly than printed books.

How to Participate

A website dedicated to Read an eBook Week was created when the holiday was, as well. This website allows authors, publishers, and retailers to put their promos in one, designated space, eliminating confusion for readers who would like to capitalize on these efforts. The website allows people who use it to be redirected to each individual and respective website that retailers use, generating massive amounts of traffic for these members of the writing industry. Thousands and thousands of people were soon using the websites of retailers and authors who bought into the Read an eBook Week initiative, boosting their sales and publicity.

an ebook sitting on a parcel
Image via Wired (Charlie Sorrel)

Purchase an eBook!

There are several ways to participate in Read an eBook Week. One of which, arguably the most-commonly used method, is to purchase an eBook, of course. There are millions of eBooks available on a plethora of different platforms, and many choose to participate in the event by taking full advantage of the discounted prices. Another participation method used is to read an eBook. Even if no purchases or new downloads are made during Read an eBook Week, many choose to participate by setting the goal of finishing an eBook before the week is over.

Another option for participation is to publish a book. People can submit their books for electronic publishing throughout the week, and electronic publishing is one of the easiest ways to publish a book. Finally, another common way in which people participate in the holiday is to spread the word. People use their social media accounts to update their followers on how they themselves are choosing to participate in Read an eBook Week, generating publicity and even increased participation in the national event. Sharing on social media also encourages engagement in literary discussions, which is always a boost to the industry.

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