A goldsmith called Johannes in the fifteenth century had an idea. He had an idea for an Incredible Machine. This machine would very literally solidify the dreams and thoughts of all the people in the world. It had been a kind of machine that had been used in other places…far away places where ideas and dreams flew like cranes. The Incredible Machine Johannes created made it possible for people all over western Europe to pray, to pray with the same words, in the same tongue….or even in different tongues if they so chose. Johannes worked on his Incredible Machine with a gem-cutter, and with a man who owned a paper mill. You might say to yourself, as the old joke goes – “A goldsmith, a gem-cutter, and a paper man walk into a bar…” What do they have in common?
They created the first moveable type printing press in Western Europe. Before the introduction of printing presses, there were under 200 books in one of the most well-known libraries in the world: Cambridge University Library. And each single one of those books cost more than a farm or a vineyard. With Johannes’ Incredible Machine, one could print more than one copy of a tract, a treatise, a leaflet, or a book. You know what that meant?
It meant that a whole bunch of monks were out of a job.
In the 1700s (the eighteenth century, of course), after only roughly two hundred years of use in Europe, “print and publication experts” began predicting the END OF THE PRINTED BOOK! The people of Europe will have no use for BOOKS. Printed on PAPER. Johannes Gutenberg’s Incredible Machine would be useless, cobwebby, and put to pasture.
In the 1800s, the Victorians pooh-poohed the printed book and foretold the END OF THE NOVEL! Novels, fiction, were ‘women’s stories’ and were considered in much the same light many people think of genre fiction today (Harlequin romance, thrillers, westerns). Victorians and the people of the world would **not** stand for things like novels, which encouraged flights of fancy, and were only for the weak-minded, who could not stomach worthy books of natural science and adventure-biographies.
In the 1900s, in the post-industrial western world, experts talked about the END OF THE PRINTED BOOK! Radio transmission would change the world and make print media obsolete. Later, the moving pictures would put print media solidly into the burning bin for good. The latter twenty or thirty years of the twentieth century introduced a new, and more accurate and better-studied claim: that the advent of the Internet and HTML code would cause the END OF THE BOOK and print media FOREVER.
It is now the 21st century.
The end of the printed book is supposed to have been dead now for over five hundred years.
The printed book isn’t going anywhere. Other products are coming, and will be used as adjuncts to print, but there will always be books. At least, for as long as I and my children are alive, and most likely for as long as my grandchildren and great-grandchildren are alive, there will always be books.
Thank God for that.