The Value of Books

I read a kindle single by Jeff Jarvis entitled Gutenberg the Geek.  I’ll write a blog post with a review of the book some other time, but I wanted to focus on one idea in this post.

Before Gutenberg created his printing press, there were books.  They were quite expensive.  You typically had to hire a scribe to spend a few years writing every word down by hand.  Books were valuable because of the ideas, but even more so because a scribe had just spent a few years writing down these ideas by hand.  These ideas were bound in a book and they were expensive to own.

Gutenberg got the shaft on a loan, and lost his printing press.  The people that kept printing with his printing press tried to sell some of Gutenberg’s bibles, and people couldn’t believe that one person could have possibly had so many bibles.  The value of one was astronomical, but to have more than one – unheard of it.  Before the Gutenberg’s press, books were extremely valuable.

The Gutenberg made his printing press.  Books, because they were easy to print, lost a little value.  The ideas were what you paid for, but the ubiquity of a printed book made owning a book less valuable.  Now, we don’t even need the physical books to get the ideas.  We buy ebooks and read them on our readers.  We will still pay for the ideas because they’re valuable, but we don’t need to buy the physical copy any longer.

I’m working on a few book proposals.  I am wondering if I should spend the time, and we’ll see if these ideas will ever get published into a book.  The ideas will get published eventually, but maybe not in a physical book.  Once we start going with ebooks and we no longer have physical books, those physical books might start becoming more valuable once again.

We used to think of pictures as these 3×5 pieces of paper with an image on it.  We used to put these pictures in an album – a book of pictures – and show them when friends and family came over.  Kodak and fuji don’t really make film cameras any more.  We hardly print pictures.  We just look at them on our devices.  It’s much easier to catalog and get too.  We don’t have to carry around these big books.

Soon, we will talk about books and not really even think about a physical version of it.  I taught a class this week and one of the students brought in a physical copy of our textbook and another student and I did not realize how thick the book was because we had bought digital versions of it.

The value of books – will start to go up soon.  We won’t need the physical copies any longer.  People in our life time will say that they need the physical book because they like the feel of paper.  But that will pass.  A book will simply be the ideas in it.

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