Michael S. Hart, inventor of the eBook and founder of Project Gutenberg, has died

Michael S. Hart, credited with inventing ebooks and founding Project Gutenberg 40 years ago, died September 6th.

As a 24-year-old with an insatiable appetite for all things electronic and mechanical, his very first free shared ebook was launched on July 4, 1971. Granted unlimited computer access at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, he transmitted an electronic copy of the Declaration of Independence. And thus began the revolutionary transformation of the world of books and free access.

As with many geniuses, Hart was considered a bit eccentric. A real do-it-yourself person who loved frugality, he preferred home remedies to traditional medicine, served as his own home handyman and auto mechanic, and had strong opinions about everything and was comfortable sharing them.

Currently, Project Gutenberg has 36,000 copyright-free ebooks that can be shared in the U.S. An additional 100,000-plus free ebooks are available from their partners and affiliates. New titles are being added all the time as the copyrights on titles continue to expire.

Hart, who was just 64, died in Illinois. Cause of death has not been disclosed as of this writing.


I have quite a few ebooks from Project Gutenberg on my iPod. It's nice to know a little bit more about the person who enabled the project to happen!