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Books, E-Books, and Amazon’s Latest Patent

We’ve come a long way since the year 1640, when the first book ever in America was printed. The Bay Psalm Book is just a 6-by-5 inch hymnal, first published in Cambridge, Massachusetts by Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Printed just 20 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the book technically represents the beginning of “literate America.” Its 1,700 copies were printed on a press shipped over from London, which was possible, of course, due to Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the Printing Press back in the 1440s.

Today, millions of books are published each year, with over three million published in the U.S. in 2010. And now, with the introduction of e-books, even more people are reading. Amazon’s first Kindle was launched in 2007, shortly followed by the iPad in 2010.

Now, e-books come in all kinds of different formats with all kinds of different apps and technologies. In fact, Amazon was recently granted a patent for a “Customized Electronic Book with Supplemental Content.” The patent outlines a method of providing readers with personalized supplemental material, like additional story lines, illustrations and more.

These extras would be based on the preferences of each reader and could be easily accessed by the user at any time- much like the extras on a DVD. “In this way, different versions of an electronic book may be produced for different individuals because each version of the electronic book can contain different supplemental content according to the preferences of each individual.”

E-books are everywhere, and the ability for them to be constantly updated and adjusted makes them an even more appealing purchase. In Q1 2012, adult e-book sales reached over $280 million, and the numbers continue to rise. Hardcover and paperbacks, however, aren’t quite as popular as they used to be with paperback sales having fallen over 20%.

As of right now, “literate America” seems to rest in the hands of those supplying us with iPads, Kindles, Nooks and whatever other e-books should come to market in the near future.