Saturday, May 19, 2012

Johannes Gutenberg/Laughing at Us?


No, I don’t think he’s turning over in his grave. I think he’s laughing at us. A pioneer in his day, he must be thinking, “Did you really assume this was the end of it?”

And I have to say, most of us did. We thought the printed word was the beginning and ending of the mass communication that changed society.

Gutenberg’s press, considered by most to be the most influential change of the second millennium, brought not only books, but communication of events to the masses. No longer was word of mouth or letter the only means by which a group of people could hear about changes in society. No longer could kings and despots prevent knowledge from trickling to the masses.

I attended a writers’ conference 12-15 years ago at which one of the secular publishing giants’ Sr. Editor spoke. When asked about “electronic” books for our computers, she laughed. Holding her hands in the shape of a book, she said, “Smell the paper. Smell the ink. Take this with you wherever you want to go. The printed book will NEVER die. Never even have its profits reduced by more than mere fad. Computerized books? A passing fancy.” Or something to that effect. None of us saw the Kindle, the Nook, and others just around the proverbial bend.

BTW, she no longer is senior editor there. Like many of us “oldies” she just didn’t see it coming. The last year and a half have been overwhelming: to readers, to writers, to agents, to editors. Changes are happening so fast, I can put together a proposal for a client one day, and learn the next that the house I was sending to has morphed again. And the proposal is now obsolete at best.

Not since Gutenberg printed the first word has there been this much change. I realize computers ushered in this amazing technology, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the printed word has NEVER changed this much in nearly 600 years. 600 YEARS!!!!

And we are living in the time.

Gutenberg was a deal changer. He understood the concept that nothing remains the same.

Are YOU ready to jump on board and be part of the change, or will you be left behind with your hands in the shape of a paperback, digging your nails in, refusing to give up the smell of musty paper?

I, for one, old as I am, have embraced the changes.

I just wish I knew what lurked around the corner. I don’t like to be surprised!