The Printed Book -- the Invisible Machine
As Marshal Mcluhan and Elizabeth Eisenstein have shown, the
chief cultural effects of the printed book derive from its combined qualities of fixity and multiplicity, since having many copies of essentially the same text
- permits readers widely separated in time and space to encounter the essentially same text -- and hence creates a new kind of virtual community of readers.
- radically changes the notions of a chirographic (manuscript) culture about how to preserve texts: one creates more texts rather than permit fewer readers.
- creates a kind of self-teaching machine that turns out to be far more accessible and hence more quickly democractizing than manuscript texts can ever be.
- contributes importantly to our conceptions of education and scholarship.
- leads to modern (though not to postmodern or poststructuralist) conceptions of authorship, creativity, intellectual property, and copyright: the need to to promote the economic survival of those involved in the book business -- authors, printers, booksellers, and publishers (the last three were originally often the same person) -- leads directly to modern notions of creativity and originality, to those disinguishing features that permit individuals to own texts themselves and not just physical instantiations of them.
Last updated: 20 July 2002