So, (picking up from the previous post) we go into a bookstore in the northern clime around 1000 years ago and say, “I would like a book please”. In todays terms the answer would be something like “sure, that would be 1 million please and we will have it promptly for you within the year”. “What would you like it to be about?” Reading has only become universally commonplace in the last 50 to 100 years time. Back then the first book you needed was a bible. I will not go into theology here, but the bible was taken as the root of learning. They may even have one in stock! There may be a few scribal errors but didn’t every book have those? Your book would be as good as everyone elses and you could argue fine points of differences in bibles with everyone else on a fairly even basis.
Fast forward 500 years and its still the same, but there are a few men who see an avenue for progress. There were woodcuts for printing, but carved boxwood only lasted so long. Paper had been discovered. Metal didn’t wear out but it was expensive and ink didn’t stick to it. The first thing to do was get ink to stick to metal. The solution to expensive metal was to have small pieces made that could be moved about. Done. Guttenburg was flying, on a high – test sheets worked – again and again. Now, what to print first? No contest. Bible.
They didn’t see it coming. So – which bible? All of a sudden there was a flawless way of producing the bible and it could be the one true word. The difficulties for the buyer grew from price and ability to read to not getting the “wrong book”. There have been rows ever since. It wasn’t flawless either – have I mentioned the “wicked” bible? In another way it was good timing. As Istambul fell to the Turks, scholars fled to Italy and the West. They borught with them new ideas and science long forgotten. There were an abundance of new subjects (church permitting). Printing caught on faster than lightning. Caxton was printing in England just a few years after Guttenburg first wet the metal.
Fast forward another 500 years and here we are (just arrived, as there was no public education till recently) – healthy, long living educated readers with (some) disposable income. 50,000 different books published yearly and quite a few of those can be delivered to your door. Ereaders for people who follow trends and have little space. Book lights, book stands, bookmarks, and software so PCs with readers can read a book to those who cant. And people like me to help build your shelves. Life couldn’t be better.