Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Late Age of Print, Ted Striphas

Striphas investigates the everydayness of books that he claims is intimately bound with: "a changed and changing mode of production; new technological products and processes; shifts in law and jurisprudence; the proliferation of culture and the rise of cultural politics; and a host of sociological transformations" (5). His main argument is that books had been integral to the making of modern consumer culture in the 20th century, as they were one of the first commercial Christmas presents, and today are responsible in part for the fall of that consumer capitalism into a society of controlled consumption, a term that he borrows from Henri Lefebvre. He convincingly shows that book publishing pioneered the rationalization and standardization of mass-production techniques in that the massive quantities of book production required efficient production processes and the move toward an hourly wage. Ultimately, The Late Age of Print investigates how books have become ubiquitous social artifacts entrenched with the everyday. His book successfully proves that book circulation is, and has always been, a political act because the circulation of books embody specific values, practices, interests, and worldviews (13). And as such, the practice of circulating books embody struggles over particular ways of life.

What does this mean for the late age of print (a term coined by Jay David Bolter to characterize the current dynamic era of book history instigated by media convergence where books remain central to shaping dominant and emergent ways of life)? Well, for some, like Sven Birkerts, author of Gutenberg Elegies, this is a crisis, a decline in the quantity (and the quality) of literature being read and it poses a real threat to culture in general.

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