Friday, April 15, 2011

Brief Timeline of Written Word Media

The Daily Ticker picked up today's story on eBook sales.
E-book sales topped sales of paperbacks for the first time ever in February, according to the Association of American Publishers. In fact, e-book sales tripled -- soaring 202 percent -- to $90.3 million when compared with February 2010. Adult trade paperback sales trailed at $82.1 million.
The trend lines have crossed!

The full report from the American Association of Publishers gives more details. The "Adult Trade" category is broad, including: Adult Hardcover, Adult Paperback, Adult Mass Market, Children’s/Young Adult Hardcover, and Children’s/Young Adult Paperback. Categories like Religion, Education, and Professional books are not included in this number.

The prevalent medium for the written word has changed slowly over history. Changes in media are crucial to higher volumes and increased distribution of written words. Here's a brief timeline of Western civilization's media for the written word:
circa 1200 B.C.: The Phoenician alphabet increases demand for an inexpensive writing medium. Papyrus replaces clay for recording agreements and laws.

circa 700 A.D.: With the advantage of being locally produced and more durable, velum and parchment begin to replace papyrus in Europe.

1282 A.D.: According to Wikipedia, the first "water-powered paper mills [enable] a massive expansion of production and [begin to replace] the laborious handcraft characteristic of both Chinese and Muslim papermaking." High-volume paper manufacturing was an important pre-cursor to the printing press.

1844 A.D.: Charles Fenerty and Friedrich Gottlob Keller simultaneously invent machines to extract pulp from wood. By 1900, most paper is produced from wood pulp instead of rag pulp.

– 1897 A.D.: Ferdinand Braun builds the first Cathode Ray Tube.

World War II: Albatross Books and Penguin books assemble paperback books with glue instead of stitching as the war-related travel market creates an opportunity for cheap, light-weight books.

1969 A.D.: Datapoint 3300 ships, the first computer display.

1970s to present: Several electronic paper technologies invented, including Grycon, Electrophoretic, and Electrowetting. Other technologies like Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) are used in specific applications. Many manufacturers working on a flexible lightweight display to replace paper.

November 19, 2007: Amazon releases the Kindle, the first high-volume eBook appliance.

February, 2011: unit sales of eBooks outnumber sales of paperbacks.
Historic changes in media have created gigantic shifts in economic and distribution models. With the introduction of the Kindle eBook and iPad tablet product categories, written words once again are finding more and more ways to readers.

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