BooksBooks are the truest form of media. Each and every production, from a television show to amovie to a radio broadcast, all started as a script.. words on paper. Even in this era ofrapidly advancing technology, a time when the latest thing can be rendered obsolete beforeit reaches your home, we have still created nothing that can replace the book. Despite theseeming immortality of the form of book we now know, though, it has undergone severalimportant transformations since the inception of the form. The heritage of the published book began in sixth century China, with the invention of aform of block printing. By the eleventh century, the Chinese has invented the first fullymovable type, but, as with so many other innovations of that time, they did not fullyexploit it. In fact, the full cultural advent of publishing occurred not in China, but inEurope. Interestingly enough, though many Chinese technologies were passed on to theEuropeans by the Arabs, including paper, movable type technology was not, possibly resultingfrom the Arabic insistence upon hand-copying of the Qur’an. Instead, movable type in Europewaited until 1440, when it is believed Johannes Gutenberg invented the technique. Gutenberg’s invention was not a single machine, however, but an entirely new techniqueinvolving movable metal print, ink, press, and paper. In under 50 years, the technique hadbeen carried through the whole of Europe, mainly by German printers. At first, printing was simply seen as a way to eliminate copying errors, and thepossibilities for mass production were not truly realized until 1498, when the Catholicchurch printed approximately 18,000 letters of indulgence. Another massive advancement inthe field of mass production came when in England, when Mr. Charles Dickens created ThePickwick Papers, a revolutionary concept in publishing. The series of novels were not unique
in their content or story, but in the form of their publishing. Whereas in that time, mostbooks were printed on hardy paper, and bound with string and leather covers, the pickwickpapers were, it could be said, the precursors to today’s paperbacks. They were made entirelyof paper, bound and printed so cheaply that they fell apart if they were read too often. Never before had books been printed in such a fashion. Even if they had sold pitifully, withthe cheapness of production, a profit still would have been made. But they sold as well, ifnot better, then any previous book, because, with this series, another innovation wasintroduced: The cliffhanger. After that date, it was hundreds of years before any otherserious innovation was introduced into the publishing industry. The advances made weremainly in the methods of bookmaking, mainly technological steps forward in the means inwhich the presses operated. The next step forward came in the 1970’s, when John Jakes wroteThe Bastard, the first novel released in Paperback to become a bestseller in Americanliterary history. Before that time, the policy had been to release any novel consideredpromising in the more expensive Hardback form. Since that time, innovation in publishing has been a series of continuous, small,advancements. Advancements in technique, machinery, and, occasionally, philosophy. From timeto time, though, we are still surprised. There are still some instances in which writers,inventors, or publishing houses surprise us. Steven King is perhaps one of the most notableinstances. He shattered the belief that an author could not write prolifically and stillwrite well. The field of publishing has come a long way. The past has been glorious, and while books nolonger occupy the honored and revered position in our society that they once did, the futureis still bright.