According to Six Revisions, the e-book was invented back in the early 70s by Michael Hart. This alone was rather surprising due to the lack of significant developments in e-books until the millennium. However a quick internet search revealed that the origin goes back to the 1940s.
Ángela Ruiz Robles, a teacher, created a piece of hardware called la Enciclopedia Mecánica (the Mechanical Encyclopedia). She created the device in 1949 in an attempt to decrease the number of books that her pupils carried to the school. Despite the prototype on display in the National Museum of Science and Technology in Spain, she never received funding and the device never left the prototype stage.
Doug Engelbart and Andries van Dam are also considered the inventors of the e-book as they ‘developed the first working hypertext system.’ The system was later sold to the Houston Manned Spacecraft Center, where it was used to produce documentation for the Apollo space program – according to Stephanie Ardito. This is partially corroborated in Milestones in Computer Science and Information Technology by Edwin D. Reilly, who also says that the origins of the e-book can be “traced” to Michael Hart.
The majority of the internet believe that Michael Hart was the created – but why? Hart himself says that “[he] certainly wasn’t the first person to type anything into a computer“.