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COMM002: Media and Society

Unit 4: The Book as the Original Mass Medium   Johann Gutenberg (ca. 1400–1468) did not invent printing, but his practical method of producing metal type and using it to print books changed the world. Gutenberg’s printing press altered how culture was reproduced and transmitted, from a largely oral tradition to the written word. You could say that his invention created a whole new culture of reproduction: books needed libraries, libraries became centers of learning, universities formed, and the Enlightenment followed. Books became a form of popular entertainment as the middle class emerged with disposable income and leisure time. Now the world of books and the culture of reproduction are changing with the advent of electronic books. This unit will trace that history, exploring issues such as intellectual property rights along the way. 

Unit 4 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 8.75 hours to complete.

☐   Subunit 4.1: 3 hours

☐   Subunit 4.2: 1.5 hours

☐   Subunit 4.3: 2.75 hours

☐   Unit 4 Assignments: 1 hour

☐   Unit 4 Assessment: 30 minutes

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - explain how Gutenberg’s method of using moveable type to produce books changed the nature of society; - discuss the origins of copyright law and the book-publishing industry; - explain the culture of reproduction and its effects on society; - classify the different book formats and describe their cultural meaning; and - describe trends in book publishing and the cultural implications of e-books.

4.1 The Book as the Original Mass Medium   4.1.1 History of Books   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 3, Section 1: History of Books” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 3, Section 1: History of Books” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Carefully read Chapter 3, Section 1 on pages 94-104 for an overview of how books evolved into the present classifications used by the publishing industry and booksellers. Take careful notes, as this reading applies to several subunits below.
 
Reading this section and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.
 
Note: This reading also applies to subunits 4.1.2, 4.1.3, and 4.1.4.

4.1.2 Gutenberg’s Bible and the Spread of Printing   4.1.2.1 The First Book   - Web Media: The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center: “The Gutenberg Bible” Link: The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center: “The Gutenberg Bible” (HTML)
 
Instructions: According to the Harry Ransom Center website, Gutenberg planned to print 200 copies of his Bible on rag cotton linen paper and 30 on vellum, an animal skin. No one knows how many copies were actually printed, but only 22 copies are known to survive today, seven on vellum. In addition to the one at Harry Ransom Center, copies reside on display at the British Library and at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, among other places. The Harry Ransom Center quotes a cost of $100 million for a complete Bible, but really such books are beyond price. Read through all materials on Gutenberg and take a good look at the quality and beauty of this first printed book.
 
Reading this website should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
 
Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 4.1.1.

4.1.2.2 The Effects of Printing as a Mass Medium   - Reading: The Economist: “Social Media in the 16th Century: How Luther Went Viral” Link: The Economist: “Social Media in the 16th Century: How Luther Went Viral” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Five centuries before Facebook and the Arab spring, social media helped bring about the Reformation, except the medium was printing. Your textbook describes how Thomas Paine’s “pamphlets,” really short books, became part of the philosophical basis for the American Revolution. Common Sense in its original form was 48 pages. This article, with accompanying audio, describes one of the earliest uses of the printing press as a mass medium, or even as a social medium.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
 
Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 4.1.1.

4.1.2.3 Fifty Books that Changed the World   - Reading: Open Education Database: “50 Books That Changed the World” Link: Open Education Database: “50 Books That Changed the World” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Go to this website for an interesting list of 50 great books that had a profound effect on the world and its culture; tally how many of the books you have read. We have said that the mass media are cultural industries, and that is something that has been true since the advent of printing more than 550 years ago. Have any of these books shaped your view of the world, or in other words, shaped your culture? Remember, though, that it’s only one list.
 
Reading this list and answering the questions above should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.1.3 Reproduction of Text and the Need for Copyright Law   - Reading: Samuel L. Clemens’s “Arguments Before the Committees on Patents of the Senate and House of Representatives, Conjointly, on the Bills S. 6330 and H.R. 19853: To Amend and Consolidate the Acts Respecting Copyright” Link: Samuel L. Clemens’s “Arguments Before the Committees on Patents of the Senate and House of Representatives, Conjointly, on the Bills S. 6330 and H.R. 19853: To Amend and Consolidate the Acts Respecting Copyright” (HTML)
 
Instructions: We are living in an era when the ownership of intellectual property is under assault. We expect “content” to be free, and we’re not bashful about passing that content on to our “peers.” We don’t think of content as someone’s labor, someone who hopes to enjoy the fruits of that labor. Samuel Clemens had radical ideas about copyright, but his testimony before a congressional committee on what became the Copyright Act of 1909 is logical and well-reasoned − and funny.
 
Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
 
Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 4.1.1.

4.1.4 The Rise of the Publishing Industry   - Reading: Funding Universe: “Random House Inc. History” Link: Funding Universe: “Random House Inc. History” (HTML)
 
Instructions: The history of a publishing house is a curious mix of literary and commercial interests. The story of Random House Inc. begins in 1925 when two men in their 20s, Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer, bought a small line of books and turned it into a publishing giant. Read this history and note how the literary emphasis of the company shifted to a commercial one as the company grew and eventually went public.
 
Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
 
Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 4.1.1.

4.2 Books and the Development of US Popular Culture   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 3, Section 2: Books and the Development of U.S. Popular Culture” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 3, Section 2: Books and the Development of U.S. Popular Culture” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Chapter 3, Section 2 on pages 105-114 and apply what you learn to the next two subunits.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

4.2.1 Pulp Fiction: Low-Brow Becomes High-Brow   - Reading: University of Buffalo: Patricia Donovan’s “Pulp Fiction” Link: University of Buffalo: Patricia Donovan’s “Pulp Fiction” (HTML)
 
Instructions: In February 1949, Russell Lynes wrote an article for Harper’s that divided American tastes into “highbrow, lowbrow, and middlebrow.” Lynes, Harper’s managing editor, later helped Life come up with a chart that placed things such as “reading” on a scale, from the highly intellectual (highbrow) to what he thought appealed to the uneducated lower classes (lowbrow).[1] On the chart, he classifies pulp magazines and comic books as the lowest of lowbrow.[1] But such distinctions are tricky because the so-called tastemakers can elevate something lowbrow by making it the topic of intellectual inquiry. Such is the case with much pulp fiction, written as entertainment and printed on cheap “pulp” paper, often with one eye on sales figures. Today, the detective novels of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler are considered in literature classes alongside Hemingway. Read Patricia Donovan’s description of one bibliophile’s pulp-fiction collection.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.2.2 Literature and Culture   - Reading: City Journal: Myron Magnet’s “What Use Is Literature?” Link: City Journal: Myron Magnet’s “What Use Is Literature?” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Myron Magnet’s article on the uses of literature is really a commentary on what it means to have a common culture. Note that Magnet never uses the term “entertainment,” but good literature to him has to touch us personally and speak some truth. That can be entertaining, too.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Writer’s Digest: Michael J. Vaughn’s “Anatomy of a Bestseller” Link: Writer’s Digest: Michael J. Vaughn’s “Anatomy of a Bestseller” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Remember that being media literate means knowing how media messages are constructed. Read Michael J. Vaughn’s analysis of what makes a best seller. Think also of how the techniques Vaughn suggests arise from our common culture.
     
    Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.2.3 The Novel as a Cultural Force   - Reading: The New York Times: Cynthia Wachtell’s “The Author of the Civil War” Link: The New York Times: Cynthia Wachtell’s “The Author of the Civil War” (HTML)
 
Instructions: In Chapter 3, Section 1 (pages 107-118) of Understanding Media and Culture, you read that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin had a profound effect on attitudes toward slavery and might have hastened the Civil War. Keep that in mind as you read Cynthia Wachtell’s well-researched opinion piece that makes a similar claim for the romantic tales of chivalry written by Sir Walter Scott.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.3 Current Publishing Trends and the Effects of New Media   4.3.1 Major Book Formats   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 3, Section 3: Major Book Formats” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 3, Section 3” Major Book Formats” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Chapter 3, Section 3 on pages 115-120 summarizes how the publishing industry puts books in categories, such as hardcover, trade paperback, and paperback. As you read this, think of publishing and bookselling as a type of culture, with its own codes and rituals. These codes and rituals are changing rapidly; think of the demise of the cozy bookstore and the rise of Amazon. How has that affected your relationship with the object itself, the book?
 
Reading this section and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

4.3.2 Current Publishing Trends   4.3.2.1 The Big Box Challenge   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 3, Section 4: Current Publishing Trends” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 3, Section 4: Current Publishing Trends” (PDF)
 
Instructions: In Chapter 3, Section 4 on pages 120-130, read the summary of the current publishing industry and keep it in mind as you read the two commentaries that follow.
 
Reading this section and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

4.3.2.2 The End?   - Reading: Michael Hyatt’s “The End of Book Publishing as We Know It” Link: Michael Hyatt’s “The End of Book Publishing as We Know It” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Michael Hyatt of the trade-book publisher Thomas Nelson says the ink-on-paper book is dead, and he has the video to prove it. But is reading a book on your Kindle substantially different from reading it on a printed page? Yes, Hyatt says, and it’s better.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.3.2.3 Long Live Books   - Reading: MIT Communications Forum: Priscilla Coit Murphy’s “Books Are Dead, Long Live Books” Link: MIT Communications Forum: Priscilla Coit Murphy’s “Books Are Dead, Long Live Books” (HTML)
 
Instructions: The scholar Priscilla Coit Murphy points out that other media have survived in the face of technology. She states that our mistake is to think of various forms of media as rivals in a zero-sum world, where a movie sold means one less book sold. This isn’t true, she writes. As you read this, think about how different forms of media (books, movies, games) co-exist in your world.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.3.3 The Influence of New Technology   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 3, Section 5: The Influence of New Technology” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 3, Section 5: The Influence of New Technology” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Chapter 3, Section 5 on pages 130-139 and keep it in mind as you go through the two subunits below.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

4.3.3.1 From Paper to Pixels   - Reading: The Economist: “Great Digital Expectations” Link: The Economist: “Great Digital Expectations” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This short article from The Economist discusses the rapid rate that information in books is being turned into electrons in a computer. Digitization is changing everything from how we read to what libraries own and provide.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.3.3.2 The Bookstore and Library on Your Desktop   - Reading: Melville House: Dennis Johnson’s “Random House Makes History, Says It Will Sell Books to Libraries with No Restriction on Number of Loans” Link: Melville House: Dennis Johnson’s “Random House Makes History, Says It Will Sell Books to Libraries with No Restriction on Number of Loans” (HTML)
 
Instructions: We tend to think of the digital world of books in terms of reading new books on the Kindle or iPad. The uneasy relationship this has brought about between libraries and publishers has a note of irony, as Dennis Johnson points out in his article about Random House.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.3.3.3 Welcome to the Googleplex   - Web Media: TED Talks: Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel’s “What We Learned from 5 Million Books” Link: TED Talks: Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel’s “What We Learned from 5 Million Books” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Digitization has another dimension: a digitized book is like any other source of data that can be analyzed and quantified. Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel discuss Google’s efforts to digitize millions of existing books, with some interesting opportunities for cultural research as a result.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to TED, and the original version can be found here.