The Late Age of Print is a book by Ted Striphas, an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University. It is available from Columbia University Press and major retail booksellers.
This blog, whose tagline is “Beyond the Book,” is its continuation. It extends ideas and themes introduced in The Late Age of Print. It also provides a forum in which to reflect on the purpose, meaning, and value of books at a time when, according to some, the medium has had its heyday.
“The Late Age of Print” (the Idea)
“The late age of print” is a phrase Jay David Bolter, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, introduces in his book, Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print (2nd ed.; Lawrence Earlbaum, 2001).
According to Bolter, “the late age of print” refers to “a transformation of our social and cultural attitudes toward, and uses of, this familiar technology. Just as late capitalism is still vigorous capitalism, so books and other printed materials in the late age of print are still common and enjoy considerable prestige” (p. 3). In other words, “the late age of print” draws attention to the enduring ways in which books shape habits of thought, conduct, and expression–even in a supposedly “digital age.” At the same time, the phrase points to how other media, shifting forms of industrial organization, changing patterns of work and leisure, new laws governing the use of media artifacts, and a host of other factors all have affected the role books play in societies today.
“The late age of print” thus draws attention to how we’re living in a period of transition. Books remain a vital if perhaps not quite as central a force in the shaping of culture today.
The Late Age of Print (the Book)
Ted Striphas argues that, although the production and propagation of books have undoubtedly have entered a new phase, printed works are still very much a part of our everyday lives. With examples from trade journals, news media, films, advertisements, and a host of other commercial and scholarly materials, Striphas tells a story of modern publishing that proves, even in a rapidly digitizing world, books are anything but dead.
From the rise of retail superstores to Oprah’s phenomenal reach, Striphas tracks the methods through which the book industry has adapted (or has failed to adapt) to rapid changes in twentieth-century print culture. Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com have established new routes of traffic in and around books, and pop sensations like Harry Potter and the Oprah Book Club have inspired the kind of brand loyalty that could only make advertisers swoon. At the same time, advances in digital technology have presented the book industry with extraordinary threats and unique opportunities.
Striphas’s provocative analysis offers a counternarrative to those who either triumphantly declare the end of printed books or deeply mourn their passing. With wit and brilliant insight, he isolates the invisible processes through which books have come to mediate our social interactions and influence our habits of consumption, integrating themselves into our routines and intellects like never before.