Voices from the North

On December 9, 2009 my special returning guest on Voices from the North was Bob Cooper. For those of you who don’t already know, Bob is a pioneer of home satellite technology. Here’s a link to a Mother Earth News article about Bob written in 1980. He has self-published more than 40 books in the course of his productive life and he’s recently turned novelist of the Portobello trilogy set in the Caribbean (Turks & Caicos Islands), where Bob used to live.

Gutenberg and Printing

During this interview Bob gives an overview of publishing from the time of Johannes Gutenberg (the 42 line Gutenberg Bible) in about 1439 until the present. He ties in our discussion with the findings of Gavin Menzies, author of 1421 and 1434, who claims the Chinese sailed flotillas of 300 ships around the world long before Columbus theoretically discovered the Americas. In fact, Menzies claims Columbus was using Chinese maps to assist his navigation. The Chinese were also printing books with movable type at least as early as AD 900, again long before the supposed invention of Gutenberg’s.

Bob Cooper was simultaneously publishing five magazines circa 1960 when he was in his early twenties. At that time, technology hadn’t advanced much beyond the early printing of Gutenberg. Flats were made for each magazine page from molten lead. Post production, the entire lot was melted down again, ready for the next printing project.

Print on Demand

Espresso Book Machine

Now, fast forward to today. Print on Demand companies like BookSurge (or as they’re now called, CreateSpace) are using fully automated and computerized machines like the Espresso Book Machine. As Bob explains, from the moment Joe Bloggs (from anywhere) places his online order for a POD book, one minute might transpire before the physical book is produced from scratch complete with an address label ready to be posted or couriered to Joe. Presumably, no human hands have been involved to this point. The BookSurge representative is likely calmly sipping a liquid Espresso at the time. There is no need to make an initial print run of, say, 3000 copies. The books are printed as required.

Enter Kindle

Six months ago the publishing industry was again turned on its head with the introduction of Amazon’s Kindle Wirless Reading Device. Again, as Bob says, a vacationer lounging on the beach in Samoa could have a new book uploaded to her Kindle within a minute of placing their order. All they need is access to 3G mobile, something that’s pretty omnipresent today.

So, what are the implications of the rapid technological changes we’re seeing in the publishing world? Only time will tell. But, as Bob Cooper points out in our interview, Barnes and Noble will be closing 200 stores after Christmas and, at the same time, Borders will be virtually (pun intended) no more. Keep your eyes and ears open in 2010. Will you be reading from a machine or from a real book. I’m sticking to the ‘real thing’, and that’s not Coca Cola folks!

For the complete informative and entertaining interview listen here:

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John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.