This is not just a history book. It is a book that traces the history of its own ancestors with a very specific purpose. It focuses on the book throughout history as a constantly evolving tool for social change and the efficient accomplishment of tasks: as a form of technology. Indeed, at many points in its development, the book has fulfilled the definition of a particular type of technology known as “disruptive technology.”
A disruptive technology is a new technology that transforms, or disrupts, existing technology and unexpectedly becomes the standard.1 This transitional phase is often slow and complex. The new technology generally emerges unobtrusively and gradually overtakes a related technology. In the meantime, it often encounters resistance from those who are hesitant to accept it as a replacement for the established technology. Ultimately, however, the disruptive technology displaces its precursor and also often increases its accessibility. The term “disruptive innovation” is similar, and applies to an innovation or discovery that changes the market for a particular technology.
When studying the history of the book, we discovered countless examples of both disruptive technology and disruptive innovation, which we have outlined here to be considered. The book’s history is a fascinating subject, and examining it in terms of disruptive technology adds a new dimension to explore. Our goal in writing this book has been to present the history of the book in a new light, providing accurate yet interesting facts and deepening the reader’s understanding of this unassuming object that plays such an important role in societies all around the world.
1. Milan Zeleny, “High Technology and Barriers to Innovation: From Globalization to Relocalization,” International Journal of Information Technology and Decision Making, 1 (2) 441-456. (2012). In his article, Zeleny uses the term “high technology” to refer to this type of technology.
A History of the Book: Disrupting Society from Tablet to Tablet
Alyssa Adams, Janel Chandler, Keelie Daquilanto, Kristin Eck, Anna O. Funk, Julia Grabhorn, Jennifer Hight, Audrey Jones, Meghan Link, Alissa McAlpine, Richelle McDaniel, Reina Morgan, Sarah Ellen Pettigrew, Robin Roemer, and Braden Shribbs
The written word is arguably one of the most powerful tools available to mankind. This book analyzes the history and social impact of written language from the oldest known writing systems to the rise of electronic media.
Chapter 01 - The History of Early Materials
This chapter explores some of the earliest writing materials and systems with a particular focus on the use of clay tablets, papyrus, bamboo, and silk.
Chapter 02 - From Scroll to Codex: New Technology and New Opportunities
Anna O. Funk
This chapter discusses the shift from writing on scrolls to codices, with emphasis on the cultural influences of this change, especially in the religious sector.
Chapter 03 - The Spread of Knowledge via Print
In this chapter, the advent of printing is examined in relation to its impact on the religious and scientific communities.
Chapter 04 - Printing as a Catalyst for Social Revolution
This chapter discusses the printing press and its contribution to the standardization of the English language, as well as the significance of mass communication in the social turbulence of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Chapter 05 - Censorship
This chapter explores the rise of censorship as a response to the advent of the printing press, as well as the disruptive power of those who continued to distribute their publications despite efforts to censor their work.
Chapter 06 - Voltaire: An Example of Enlightenment Censorship
This chapter establishes Voltaire as a case study for censorship during the Enlightenment, discussing his life and the disruptive power of his published works.
Chapter 07 - Evolution of the Codex
This chapter covers a shift in purpose for the book itself in the 18th century. As literacy rates soared, the book became accessible to people of varied social classes, and this chapter examines the effects of this change on the social environment.
Chapter 08 - Mechanization of the Printing Press
This chapter explains the various forms through which the printing press evolved, as well as the larger impacts of this new, faster means of spreading information.
Chapter 09 - Publishers and Authors in the Nineteenth Century: Changing Roles
This chapter discusses the establishment of clear roles for writers, printers, and publishers. It also compares the early systems of royalties and copyright with those in practice today.
Chapter 10 - The Path to Present-Day Libraries
This chapter explores the different types of libraries that surfaced in the 19th century, as well as the effect that this unprecedented access to written materials had on society.
Chapter 11 - Developing Printed Forms of Fiction
In this chapter, various incarnations of printed fiction books such as dime novels and mass-produced books are explored in terms of their influence on social structure and attitudes toward literacy.
Chapter 12 - Revolution of Printing Technology and the Development of Paperbacks
This chapter explains the invention of the linotype and monotype machines, and the resulting rise in paperback publishing.
Chapter 13 - The Genre
This chapter discusses the rise of specific genres in the 20th century and the impact thereof on how the general public viewed reading and literacy.
Chapter 14 - The Electronic Book as a Disruptive Technology
This chapter examines the introduction of electronic book and the Internet in terms of the impact that their inception has had on the literary field.
Chapter 15 - The Future of the Book and the Slow Book Movement
Sarah Ellen Pettigrew
This chapter reflects on the themes presented throughout the book in a modern light. It looks to the future and examines various attitudes toward reading in electronic forms as opposed to traditional print media.