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Today’s Spotlight: The History of Publishing



Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Welcome to the new edition of the OTC Blog.


Ever wonder how the printed word began? From Clay tablets to audio books, the printing industry has changed over the years. Here is a brief history of how we went from drawing on a wall to hearing celebrities read to us as we drift off to sleep.


  1. Clay Tablets- In 3500 BC the first writings and scriptures were written in Mesopotamia. The writers would jot down text on damp clay tablets and dry them in a kiln.

  2. Papyrus Scrolls- The oldest scroll was from 2400 BC. Strips of the papyrus stem. The pitch-are cut and then glued together. Egyptians were the first known to use them and then the Greeks and Romans followed.

  3. Parchment Papers- Between 500-200 BC, thin pieces of calves, sheep or goat skin were used to replace Papyrus. The Greeks were the first to use these techniques and eventually this method became preferred across the known world.

  4. Codex- At an unknown point between 200 BC and 100 AD people tried to a new way to print. They coated wooden slabs with wax and used a stylus to write on them. These wooden slabs were tied together with a cord.

  5. Paper- In 105 AD paper as we know it today was invented by China. Using the bark of trees to create this new medium. This encourages people to transition over to using this new option for the printed word. This would also start the era when ink was used. The Chinese also found a way to strengthen this paper enough to add colored illustrations. They continued to use cord to bind the pages together.

  6. Printed Books- Until 868 AD, the books published were all handwritten. Authors wrote copies of the same book and kept it at the libraries. A technique known as block printing was found in 220 AD. Blocks made of wood had letters and patterns that could be printed on paper

  7. Moveable Typewriter- The first one built was by China in 1040 AD. This version was made of wooden blocks with carved letters and symbols. Because of this, the ink would soak into the blocks to fast requiring the blocks to be repeatedly replaced. However, in the 1430s, a new machine using metal blocks was created in Europe. This invention led to the publishing of the Bible in book format.

  8. Printing Press- In 1500 AD the printing press was discovered. This help with the speed of production of book and the cost. So now more people were able to purchase books, newspapers, and journals.

  9. Traditional Publishing- From the mid-1500s, traditional publishing started to flourish in Europe, USA, and various other countries. The publishing house buys the copyrights to an author’s work and sells it. A deal, i.e. royalty, is negotiated between the publishers and authors. The deal is generally a percentage of the overall sales.

  10. Self-publishing- Is the publication of media by its author at their own cost, without the involvement of a publisher. Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman all started their careers as self-publisher.

  11. EBooks- (Electronic Books)- is a book publication made available in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, readable on the flat-panel display of computers or other electronic devices. Some trace the concept of an e-reader, a device that would enable the user to view books on a screen, to a 1930 manifesto by Bob Brown, written after watching his first "talkie" (movie with sound). He titled it The Readies, playing off the idea of the "talkie".

Throughout history, we understood the importance of passing down stories. What type of reader are you? Do you prefer holding a printed book, feeling the pages slip through your fingers as the adventure continues? Or do you enjoy convenience of opening an app on your phone and taking your favorite story with you anywhere you go?


**** Research done using Wikipedia and a 2017 article in Inside Notion Press.

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