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The Publishing Industry

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The publishing industry is the “oldest” if not the “original” sector of the media and content industries as it can be dated back to the introduction of the format used for modern books (the codex: block of wood, book) (Latin caudex for “trunk of a tree”. In 2010, a consortium of Swiss firms (Edipresse, Ringier, Swiscomm…) was testing an e-reader under the name code “codex”: eReadingpilot.ch.) around the 1st-century (Source: Wikipedia “Codex”. ), a bound book with pages The codex gradually replaced the scroll (roll of papyrus, parchment, or paper). This new format/ technology allowed random access, as scrolls could only be accessed sequentially. This is considered as the most important “technological change” before the invention of printing.

In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg introduced a printing press based on the use of the first metal movable types. In fact, the first movable types were made in China in 1045 AD but were made of baked clay, the first practical wooden movable was developed as well in China around 1300, and the first metal movable in Korea, the “jikji” (T.Christensen, “Gutenberg and the Koreans. Did East Asian Printing Traditions Influence the European Renaissance?”, http://www.rightreading.com/printing/gutenberg.asia/gutenberg-asia-2-societal-issues.htm), in the 13th century (Macioti, 1989).(Macioti (1989), “Innovation and Diffusion of Technology: an Example of the Printing Press”. )

Jikji or "Selected Teachings of Buddhist Sages and Seon Masters" (Jikji or “Selected Teachings of Buddhist Sages and Seon Masters”, (1377) – Source: Bibliotheque Nationale de France)

As Marshall Mc Luhan (1962), in his celebrated “Gutenberg Galaxy” put it: “The invention of typography confirmed and extended the new visual stress of applied knowledge, providing the first uniformly repeatable commodity, the first assembly line, and the first mass production”. As the seminal work of Elizabeth Eisenstein (1980) on the printing press as an agent of change has shown, it had a profound effect on society when Europe was transitioning away from medieval to the modern world (Among the other historians dealing with that phenomenon, one can quote the French school with scholars like H.J Martin, a leading authority on the history of the book and of writing. See: Febvre, Lucien; Martin, Henri-Jean (1997), The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450–1800, London, Verso. For a bibliography on “printing and the book” see: http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195399301/obo-9780195399301-0004.xml?rskey=KoouyK&result=2&q=book publishing#firstMatch ). Her thesis is well known, the printing press helped bringing down the power of the Catholic Church aiding the progress of Protestant Reformation and paved the way to the scientific revolution, a revolution born with printing, according to her.

She stressed that a cultural change of that magnitude took quite some time to unfold, as the effects were not seen clearly for more than a hundred years, in other words if the technological change spread quickly the cultural changes did not. As she points out: “the first century of printing produced a bookish culture that was not very different from that produced by scribes” (Op.cit p. ). Among the consequence of this shift from script to print, she noticed new forms not only of transmission of knowledge but of learning moving away from both scribal but oral culture dominated by the “art of the memory” to quote the title of another seminal work from F. A. Yates (1966).(Memory was enormously important to orators because they were expected to deliver long speeches with total accuracy. In fact, memory was of such value that there developed an “art of memory” designed to strengthen the natural memory. For changes in ways to read see also Le Goff. ) It opened new avenues to preserve, update, disseminate, retrieve, and acquire know.

E. Eisenstein compared this invention with the advent of computers, stating: “until the recent advent of computers, has there been any other invention which saved so many man-hours for learned men” (Op.cit p.521. ). She showed that the printing press did not create the book but contributed to redefine it. Along these lines, some authors are claiming that the parallels between the printing press era and today’s technological breakthrough in communications are compelling (Dewar, 1998) and that most likely the future of this information age will be dominated by unintended consequences, however the full effect may take some time to unveil. C. Frugoni claims that the printing press, not only brought changes in the format of the book but to the mentality, echoing E. Eisenstein; and that a similar process will happen with the computer revolution (Frugoni, 2011).

A change like the shift from the scroll to the codex brought a redistribution of the kind of supporting activities needed to produce such books; papyrus or parchment producers were bound to disappear and new papers producers replacing them. In other words, the entire value chain is modified, this is also what H.S. Becker described as “art worlds” (For a philosophical perspective see Nelson Goodman, Ways of worldmaking, Hackett Publishing, 2001. ) (Becker, 1982) for creative industries where the production is organised around the “artist” but emphasizing the collective activity and kind of collaboration required to that end. (For instance for a piece of music to be played, not only (trained) musicians are obviously needed but instruments produced, stored and maintained, musical notation available, edited, and distributed, programmes printed, rooms for concert booked…. The UK government department on culture, media and sports (DCMS) (1998) for instance distinguishes between core, supporting and related activities for music. ) Digitisation is triggering such changes within the value chain with the emergence and the shifting role of various industry players.

The invention of the printing press took place with and among other changes that happened before within the “book” world. For instance, the creation of universities (studium) allows teaching to become a real work with the appropriate tools (books: Frugoni, 2011 at 54-55). The book business could thrive with the use of copied of the official “examplar” used for a course, copies were multiple and costs dropped as opposed to the high cost of the codex (Frugoni at 60).

This invention was also made possible through an earlier invention that paved the way: the invention of paper that preceded by some centuries (Spain 1150 according to Frugoni, medieval Italy was well known for the quality of its paper). Like in the case of the printing press, China was producing paper as early as the second century B.C (paper was also produced in Korea and Japan around the 6th century A.C) (Frugoni, at 80).

The printed book as a “new media” initially tried to replicate as much as possible the patterns of the codex and the graphs of the copyist. Therefore, the first bible printed by Gutenberg in 1450 (C. Frugoni is more cautious about this attribution of the invention of the printing to Gutenberg around 1450 (Frugoni at.82).) was deeply influenced my medieval habits, not only gothic characters were used but Gutenberg left room for ornaments and colours. Some more time was needed to use new more appropriate fonts. The change took place in Italy, in Venetia, where Aldo Manuzio introduced the new letters inspired by the “litttera antiqua” (he also created the “italic”). Manuzio also left the legacy format to introduce a much smaller one (one fourth) to make books easily available. The components of the book “chain” were in place. The book industry started to grow as well as the paper industry and other technical industries (Rome for instance was a booming market between 1467 and 1477 printing 160 000 books).

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