A Brief History of Publication

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There were the cave walls. Symbols turned into stories for the nomadic types.

Creedos were literally set into stone tablets. They were sent down mountains.

Before it was a font, Papyrus was paper. Rough, but serviceable.

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Monks wrote and rewrote bibles by hand. Not only did you have to translate the word of god, but you probably had to do it through questionable handwriting skills.

Gutenberg made the first press. Royalty and churches were very fond of this idea and invested in it very heavily. Not because it would launch a progressively growing literacy around the world, but because they could disperse exact copies of the rule they wanted to have over the land.

Centuries pass. The press improves and is more or less the same thing.

It develops. It gets cheaper to produce the printing machines.

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Typewriters come about. They are persistently photographed next to cups of cold coffee.

“Mass Market Paperback” becomes a thing. No longer did we need the investment for the press. Instead, that money went towards promoting what came out of the press.

Word processors. Computers. Personal printers. Xerox machines.

Punks with markers and scissors create zines to disperse their anti-capitalist ideas. On the other end of the spectrum, weekly periodicals get glossier, cheaper to produce. The advertising margin spikes. It’s a good time to be in print.

Enter the net. The internet.

Bulletin boards become a way to communicate with others.

Weblogs come about. In spades. Across dozens of various platforms.

Anyone with a connection can publish. On WordPress or Twitter.

Through it all, the idea is the same. Technology that allows for the dispersal of ideas.

Photo by Mr Cup / Fabien Barral on Unsplash

News outlets move online. The video becomes easier to produce and can run better ads. Print becomes obsolete. The mass market paperbacks printed decades ago become valuable collector items. The collapse of print leads to the consolidation of news.

Money enters the picture. Thanks to money, some ideas are more valuable than others. The news isn’t just accurate or well written; it is viral or it is nothing.

Now, I anticipate, we are at the crossover again.

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Publishing is easy, too easy. Going into print is hard. Almost too hard. Yet, ideas delivered in tangible print go farther and make bigger impacts. They develop a more loyal fan base. They are shared and reviewed more.

Printing is a chance for ideas to be beautiful again.

Printing might just be what saves publishing.