By Richard E. Bleil
For me, personally, there was kind of an exciting event that occurred today. Although it has been available electronically on Nook and Kindle, my book, Vampire Genetics, is available on Amazon for the first time in a paperback version (ISBN 1799165426 if you care to look for it but only on Amazon). First published in electronic version in 2011, I could not get a publication company interested so I’ve never considered myself as an actual “published author”.
This new format is a clever advancement. It seems as though, as it is ordered, copies are printed and shipped. Previously, multiple copies would be printed, and if they all sold, they might print more. In the end, though, there would be left over printed books that just didn’t sell. This is the natural extension of the computer age, and the first version of my book which was not printed at all.
The first example of printing actually dates back to around 3,000 BC. The ancient Mesopotamian printers had rollers with ornate print that they would press into clay. Naturally, they would need one roller for each topic, although it could be copied multiple times. The tablets could then be dried and hardened, no doubt with fire in a process analogous to firing clay pots today.
It’s ironic that this form of printing predated the invention of ink, which would take another 500 years to discover. Around 2,500 BC, Egyptians and Chinese mixed carbon with gum (Tien-Lcheu was the inventor in China). They then formed sticks, and dried them to form solids that could be used to write. These are the basic components of inks and paints today; there is a “pigment” to give it color, and a binder to hold it. Paints include a third component, a solvent that keeps it liquid until applied, then evaporates leaving the solid ink behind.
Libraries would begin to appear a couple of thousand years later. King Solomon was reputed to have developed a library during his reign around 960 BC, and it has been the center of a great number of romantic stories of mysticism. Around 500 BC, the library of Alexandria. Under the Ptolemaic dynasty, the library of Alexandria was a center point for scholarship.
If it feels as if things were invented in an odd order, I would agree with you, because it would take another 2,400 years before paper. Around 100 BC, Chinese inventor Ts’ai-Lun mixed chopped mulberry bark with hemp rags, and allowed them to dry making the first form of paper. Han dynasty emperor Ho-Ti hired Ts’ai-Lun to develop a paper industry, the first of its kind.
It would take a significant period of time until the first movable print printing press was invented. Again from China (it’s astounding what the Chinese inventors have given us), Bi-Sheng invented the first printing press with movable type sometime around 1045 AD. More than 300 years later, Johannes Guttenberg made significant improvements to Bi-Sheng’s invention, and brought the Guttenberg printing press to Germany around 1440. If this sounds familiar, it’s not a surprise as it was used to print the Guttenberg Bible, one of the first books to be mmass-producedon a printing press.
Several centuries later, the typewriter was invented in 1808 by Italian inventor Pellegrino Turri. Rapid communication became possible with the invention of the telegraph (Samuel Morse in 1832), fax machine (1843 by Alex Baine although this was for type, not images, basically having a typewriter on one end reproducing the keystrokes on another), and telephone (Alexander Grahame Bell, 1876). It might seem a odd thing that the fax was discovered before the (voice) telephone, but if you think about what has to happen, it is actually reasonable. It’s far easier to send a series of electrical pulses through a wire (think digital; on and off) than the nuances of electrical waves that have to be kept independent of others sharing the same line and decoded on the other side. From these on-off pulses of the telegraph, to pulses to repeat the pressing of keys is the next logical step, and finally to encoding and decoding of voice waves.
The Xerox machine would be invented in another century, in 1959. Considering the preceding history, this is a remarkably recent event, meaning that the electrostatic copy is not much older than I am. Basically, localized regions of paper has an electrostatic charge generated, drawing up ink (called “toner”). This, no doubt, was a major advancement in reproducing images efficiently and economically.
Some time in the ’70’s and ’80’s, the home computer revolution began, and along with it, the rise of computers for corporate use. Ironically, this revolution was meant to save paper as files could be stored electronically, but because printing became so easy and economical, it actually had the exact opposite effect. With the rise of the matrix dot printer, ink jet, laser printers and more, it has become incredibly easy to print at home, and has even given rise to the “home publishers”. There was a time when you could always go to a “vanity press”, wherein you paid for the setup to get your book published. The name came from the fact that many people who used vanity presses basically did so because of their desire to see their book in print. I guess I fall into this category, as Amazon has taken the next logical step in vanity presses, namely, allowing anybody to make their book available, like Vampire Genetics by Richard Bleil, available in paperback form if you’ll forgive the shameless plug! The difference is, because the books are printed when ordered, there is no “set up” fees. The author still pays for the printing fees, but it is charged one at a time and comes out of the commission for the purchase.