Guttenberg's wake

Summary:Doc Searls points to what strikes me as a shallow exercise in self-congratulation by Vanity Fair, How the Web was Won, an "oral history" of the Web told by a select few, whom VF considers winners or power brokers. As Doc says, its "far from Compleat History," but the real vacuum in the story is the total lack of the ordinary person contributing to the Web, except for the acknowledgment given to "people" by the VF-anointed masters of this universe.

Doc Searls points to what strikes me as a shallow exercise in self-congratulation by Vanity Fair, How the Web was Won, an "oral history" of the Web told by a select few, whom VF considers winners or power brokers. As Doc says, its "far from Compleat History," but the real vacuum in the story is the total lack of the ordinary person contributing to the Web, except for the acknowledgment given to "people" by the VF-anointed masters of this universe. It's a one-sided history.

But, Doc also wishes out loud that he wants the media and bloggers to write more about the transition from pre-movable type book production to the post-Guttenberg galaxy, a remarkably long, slow and, often, low history that I've been re-reading lately. Did you know, for example, that book printing and binding were largely separate industries for several hundred years? Books were shipped from city to city in bales of unbound pages—and we think developing a business model is taking a long time. Early printers didn't even recognize that packaging their loose pages into an edition made sense.

That said, here are a few excellent sources of information on the transition from scholarly and professional transcription of books to the thing we know today as "book publishing":

The History and Power of Writing, by Henri-Jean Martin.

The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein.

The Book Before Printing: Ancient, Medieval and Oriental, by David Diringer.

Unfortunately, bloggers have written much more on the actor Steve Guttenberg, his body of work and appearances on Dancing With The Stars, than old Johannes the printer. History is still best found in books.

Topics: Browser, Banking, Data Management, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Printers, Software

About

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran journalist, media executive and entrepreneur. He was editor of the ground-breaking Digital Media newsletter in the 1990s and a frequent contributor to ZDNet over the years. He led development of the first Web audio/video news network at ON24, sat on the board of Electric Classifieds Inc. and Match.com, and wor... Full Bio

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