On July 4, 1971 Michael S. Hart sent the digitized text of the American Declaration of Independence to everyone on a computer network at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This was the beginning of Project Gutenberg—the first digital library. Michael Hart has also been called the inventor of the ebook (e-book):
"Hart was best known for his 1971 invention of electronic books, or eBooks. He founded Project Gutenberg, which is recognized as one of the earliest and longest-lasting online literary projects. He often told this story of how he had the idea for eBooks. He had been granted access to significant computing power at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On July 4 1971, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he decided to type the text into a computer, and to transmit it to other users on the computer network. From this beginning, the digitization and distribution of literature was to be Hart's life's work, spanning over 40 years" (http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Michael_S._Hart, accessed 01-06-2012).