If not the first, one of the first, one of the earliest eBook readers was the Softbook Reader, released in 1998 by Gemstar. It competed with the Rocket eBook, also released in 1998 by NuvoMedia Inc. These two were the first portable eBook readers, although project Gutenberg had been converting books into electronic formats since 1971.
I hope this helped!
The Softbook and the Rocket eBook were the first eReaders offered to the public in 1998.
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