Some time ago I received an email from Dee Barizo who helps run an ink cartridge site, Cartridgesave.co.uk. She wanted to share her recent posting on the â€œHistory of Print.â€ I found it fascinating and decided to share some with you, here at Beneath the Cover.
Dee begins her post with a stat that will make you stop and think: â€œAn estimated 45 trillion pages are printed annually around the world, as of 2005.â€ She goes on to say, â€œIn 2006 alone, there were approximately 30,700 printing companies in the USA alone, and these companies accounted for about $112 billion in revenues that same year.â€
Wow! Those numbers certainly put the industry into a new context, donâ€™t you think? When an author achieves publication, whether through self-publishing using POD, or through an established traditional publisher, he or she is not thinking about how much paper will be used, maybe even wasted. Unless sheâ€™s writing a book on â€˜greenâ€™. I discussed the remainder issue (what happens to books not sold) in more than one previous post, and it applies here because many remaindered books are ground into pulp. Kudos to those publishers who recycleâ€”and darts at those who do not!
In 2005, Fast Company published this article, â€œIs Print Doomed?â€ where Jeff Jarvis, former print editor and now a consultant and blogger over at BuzzMachine.com said, â€œPrint is not dead. Print is where words go to die.â€
Ouch! Did he really say print is where words go to die? Yep. He went on to accuse print of being a one-way activity, as opposed to the Web 2.0 world, which engages readers and creates a multitude of conversations and connections, as those of us who blog regularly know. Reading a printed book is, as Jarvis accuses it of, most often a solitary pursuit.
The article at Fast Company wasnâ€™t merely a platform for Jarvis to spout off about the death of a tradition. It was a discussion between two opposing ideas, Jarvis on the side of â€œprint is dead,â€ and John Griffin, who is President of the National Geographic Societyâ€™s magazine group on the other, respectfully disagreeing. Griffin says, â€œActually, print is where words go to live â€“ weâ€™re still reading the ancient Greeks. On the other hand, I question the life span of blogs.â€
I do not want to get into a fight over the value and lifespan of blogs vs. print â€“ they each have their place, and blogs are not going away any time soon. I side a bit with both men, knowing that print will never go awayâ€”we all like the touch and feel of a book, or a magazine, and theyâ€™re easier to take with you to the beach â€“ but I also know that digital is where weâ€™re at NOW and where the coming generations will be looking for their content. I have further thoughts, for another day, on the future of libraries and bookstores. Today, letâ€™s get back to the History of Print, as noted on Dee Barizoâ€™s site.
The article on Cartridgesave has some outstanding pictures of early print plates. The Phaistos Disc is beautiful. According to Deeâ€™s citation, linked here, â€œThe Phaistos disk was discovered in 1908 in southern Crete.â€ They say it likely dates from about 1700 B.C. and is two-sided. The site speculates that it may have been mass-produced.
Deeâ€™s article is really exciting, if youâ€™re into history. She discusses several other print discoveries, with a good representation of Gutenberg, whom we all consider the Father of Modern Print. Gutenberg invented movable typeâ€¦not the blogging software, the printing press. One wonders if, in twenty years, children will wonder how a man living in the 15th century could invent a content management system for the Internetâ€”but I digress. The printing press gave way to the lithograph print in 1796. Wikipedia describes this as, â€œâ€¦a printing process that uses chemical processes to create an image.â€ The pictures on Deeâ€™s site and at Wikipedia are just beautiful. Though they are in color, actual color lithography was not invented until 1837.
It would take far too much paper, and far too much of your time, to continue reporting on Deeâ€™s story, along with citations and such. She was thorough in her research. Hop over to her post and read it for yourself. She has great links, great pics, and thought-provoking content. I find the history of languageâ€”which I consider the history of print to be part ofâ€”fascinating. Donâ€™t you?
I encourage you to read the full article because at the end, there is information on 3-D printing and how it is going to change the healthcare industry. For instance, â€œStudies are currently underway to see if 3D printing could help in actually producing real tissue and organs using living cells as the building blocks, and allowing them to slowly grow to form 3D structures.â€ Gives you goose-bumps, doesnâ€™t it?
Now, thereâ€™s a print book waiting to be published. If we did it in POD, we could update on a regular basis, without having to sacrifice a lot of paper.
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