Gutenberg Bible Could Destroy Book Trade Within 20 Years

I wrote this article a couple of years ago on my science blog ILPPS when it was revealed that booksellers were losing ground to ebooks. There was a lot of hand wringing, including accusations (and still the persistent belief) that ebooks are not real books. They are here to stay and most book lovers appreciate both formats. I love my kindle but I will never give up paperbacks. Anyway, I wrote this to satisfy my own curiosity.

Gutenberg Bible Could Destroy Book Trade Within 20 years

The Daily Moan: 1st July 1455

The release of the Gutenberg Bible indicates technology that could ultimately destroy the book trade for the major Monasteries of Europe and reduce their income by as much as 75%, according to one senior Abbot.

The comments were made at the meeting of the Cistercian Abbots at their traditional annual Citeaux conference last month. Abbot Neejerk voiced his concerns to the 150 strong community that included peers from as far apart as Scotland and the eastern extremities of the Holy Roman Empire.

“This will kill the industry as we know it,” he proclaimed to the audience, “it will put thousands of monks out of work and our monasteries will lose money. The economy will collapse without us. How are we going to stop them?”

Most of the assembled crowd could only gasp and lament their own demise at this point.

“They look cheap and nasty. Honestly, they’re clearly not real books, but people are buying them! What are we to do! We’ll lose 75% of our income!” he went on.

“But,” objected Abbot Shrood from Tintern “couldn’t this new contraption benefit us if we adapt to the changing market? We could still copy luxury handmade editions. The great and the good will always want them; we just need to scale down that side of our business and invest in new technology instead of trying to suppress choice for those who might prefer a more portable format. Think about the potential for opening up the market to mass production! We could sell printed Bibles to poorer pilgrims on the road to Canterbury, Chartres, Rome even! And wouldn’t that create more jobs than it destroys? By the way, where are you getting that 75% from?”

The investigation into the death of Abbot Shrood is still ongoing but early indications suggest a blow to the back of the head by multiple large, heavy objects.

After the kerfuffle, Abbot Neejerk led the community in a ritualistic hand wringing before they agreed that they would pressure their respective monarchs to put heavy restrictions on the new technology until it went away for good and that they would most definitely never even think about using one of the ungodly machines, or at least give them tax benefits until it was no longer viable and they either went out of business or became enthusiastic supporters of the technology.

If we had modern newspapers before the invention of the Printing Press, I’m sure that The Gutenberg Bible would have received just that sort of storyline from the sensationalist tabloid media.

New technologies will always displace the media that came before and there will always be naysayers and scaremongers who think the new technology isn’t any good. It is a fact of life that technologies become obsolete while new discoveries are being made.

Anyway, I have to go now as I am off to the local university to give a motivational speech to a group of concerned flintknappers who have heard that something called “Bronze” is about to put them out of business.

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4 thoughts on “Gutenberg Bible Could Destroy Book Trade Within 20 Years

  1. It is funny how times change, huh? I hadn’t seen that piece the first time round, so it was good to revisit it. And interesting to see that the things we face today, folks were facing way back then too. Good reminder that we all need to be more flexible.

    1. Absolutely. There is far too much hand wringing over how new technology is going to take jobs, but that has always been the case. Plus, new technology provides jobs as take up increases. I think it is just (in most cases) inflexible businesses being unwilling to invest in their own future and wanting to carry on business as usual.

      1. It is hard, though. I do feel sorry for folks (and me!). Look at farmers. So much mechanized stuff going on and I just saw an article in, I think, National Geographic about how there’s this new computerized box in which pretty much anything can be grown. Sort of a souped up greenhouse. It recreates whatever environmental conditions are needed to grow whatever it is you want to grow. So, you can grow tomatoes in Finland in winter. If it takes off, it will fundamentally change farming as we know it. Is that bad? No, just change. But it will be hard change.

      2. Oh absolutely, I understand. But it has been said about many technologies that they will cost jobs. They do, but something will always replace it to create more. The internet created jobs just as the printing press did.

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