Ted Striphas argues that, although the production and propagation of books have undoubtedly 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.
Attempting to short circuit the perennial chorus of eulogies for the publishing industry, the book, and/or print media as a whole, Striphas explores the culture of books and book reading in a time of rapid change-not just in media technology, but in "patterns of work and leisure, ... laws governing commodity ownership and use," and elsewhere-without presuming the medium faces "a full-blown crisis." A communications and cultural studies professor, Striphas (of Indiana University) traces the modern evolution of the book as it has been affected by commercial phenomena like the big box bookstore, mass distribution, e-books and Oprah's book club, managing to craft an accessible and entertaining narrative out of a highly academic history (oddly enough, the world-wide legal adventures of Harry Potter are especially captivating). Though he can get repetitive, Striphas sees the culture clearly in its parts and as a whole, and this collection of historical and commercial analysis should fascinate those seriously involved with book culture and/or the industry.
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