> I forgot the name of the magazine that ran this contest, but the question
> was, What was the most important YEAR in human history? The readers said
> the year Gutenberg's press mass-produced the first book.
> From the New York Times: "A Jewish scholar from 16th-century Prague, David
> Gans, that may be unique in the world's religions" wrote "Blessed be He...
> Who has magnified His grace with a great invention, one that is useful for
> all inhabitants of the world, there is none beside it, and nothing can
> it among all wisdoms and inventions since God created man on the earth:
> Printing Press."
> A book is how we share the wealth.
> Fred Zackel
Keep in mind, though, it wasn't the product (i.e mass-produced book) itself
that made that year the most important in human history, but what *service*
that product provided. It allowed the dissemination of information to
progress beyond the elite's unique parchments, viewable only to a select
few, to a mass audience. Knowledge was no longer cloistered behind church
and government buildings, but became a powerful commodity that could be
readily accessed by the common man.
Thus, it isn't the book form itself that is important, but rather the
effective dissemination of information. If information can be disseminated
more effectively through digital means, is it any wonder that book sales and
libraries are both struggling? In the latter example, libraries are
depositories of information. If the internet is, as some would argue, a
more effective/convenient depository, it's no wonder the library is coming
rapidly to be seen as an outdated venue. Many libraries are being
transformed -- some partially, some entirely (Cushing Academy, for example*)
-- into digital/virtual learning centers.
I'm playing more the devil's advocate here than anything, since I cherish
books and libraries (and will never buy a Kindle, et al), but I also can't
ignore the truth behind the argument. Like POD (to bring this full-circle
to the other thread), the technology is here and it's bound to bring change
no matter how much we decry it.
*: From a recent story about Cushing: "The future, they believe, is digital.
"When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,'' said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. "This isn't 'Fahrenheit 451' [the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel in which books are banned]. We're not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.''
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