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date: 30 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides a very broad picture of publishing technology as it has evolved over time, making the case that publishing has always been a technological endeavour. Publishing technology in the earliest sense was marshalled to transcend space and time and, with industrialization, to acheive economies of scale in labour and material in the service of audiences. The evolution of publishing technology can be understood as a pursuit of ‘scaling up’ both in the sense of industrial economics and of the ability to gather and reach audiences. Digital technologies have destabilized industrial economies of scale, but enabled far greater and more nuanced audience reach; we live today suspended in a kind of tension between traditional industrial thinking and a newer post-industrial model of society and communications. A comparison of the ebook—manifestly of concern to most traditional publishers today—with the larger development of the open Web platform makes these tensions particularly instructive.

Keywords: Publishing technology, letterpress, printing, industrialization, digital media, ebooks, Internet, World Wide Web

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