Commentary: The Printing Press…

30 years ago, WGBH produced the documentary The Machine That Changed The World. Their second of five installments that aired during February; was entitled The Paperback Computer. That episode focused on how the computer that once took up a room to handle a single instance of data processing by the late 1970s fit on one integrated circuit or IC or better known as “chips”. A well known computer historian described it as the days when printing presses went from hardcover to paperback. In the middle centuries, this allowed a democratization that anyone could get a book. In the footage for the documentary, they featured hard cover books chained to bookcases to prevent them from being stolen.

This meant that many people could have personal computers to write whatever the hell they wanted and this predated the consumer Internet by at least three to four years from original airing. What would be an interesting analysis was with the modernization of an entire computer to fit on a little device called a smartphone that most people don’t even know what a telephone is; that meant anyone could allow to say anything and feel free. But does that come with responsibilities?

Also in this same period since the airing, presses have gotten to the point where you could write a scribe for less than $200 using your LaserJet or something similar. More independent publishers can get pass the gatekeepers of 6th or 7th Avenue; and these off-Broadway like publishers could allow people who may not be the best writers be able to publish to their hearts content.

I do not want to be snobbish, but some of these newer books I have seen at say Barnes & Noble prior to the pandemic, and I’d say in the last decade have very low barriers to standards. I do not want to flaunt on how great I write despite being a hot mess in front of a camera and behind a microphone; but the reason why I write well was I had to read from somewhere…

I read books mostly non fiction, and books that go together, business, media, technology and technical books and politics once in a while. Some books are deeper to read. Some of my books have highlighted text (and they are not textbooks either!) to help me comprehend. It’s also hard to read books amongst distractions, some that are out of my control because the environment around me requires me to be always on.

Some books make me cry like anti-vaxxers, because not only are they perceived to some as ableist, but they are blogs in books. I swear to the gawds, some publishers must have some script to turn WordPress posts into chapters and books because some of the writing is almost in verbatim on style and quality (they are poor.)

Don’t get me started how Microsoft fonts are being encouraged. (Microsoft fonts are really rough on the edges and they don’t look good on book paper, but OK for memos and in this somewhat paperless world, PDFs and screens.

In one hand, the publishing world has done things that would be capitally intensive to invest, such as color. Now those Dummies books are now often color based (just a spoiler alert, many of these books are printed in China and who knows what standards are used in the chemicals!) Books have evolved in format and style, but the context and substance has books harder to read, and the only way I try to stay coherent to keep writing and keep talking despite the latter my mother teases a lot almost to an insulting way.


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