A Brief History of Publishing

March 2012 Newsletter

Newsletter, Research Comments (1)

March is here, and we’ve got lots to share. This month, we’ll be releasing a great new open-source iOS library we’ve created for ReadSocial, as well as an update to our collaborative Web browsing tool, RabbleBrowser. You’ll also be able to complete your Float mHealth research collection with our three new reports detailing a variety of medical- and health care-related information and data. Later this month, Float goes on the road to New York City and Orlando to speak at a few great conferences.

As many of you know, we recently helped Wiley Publishing launch a re-imagined e-book, The Leadership Challenge Mobile Tool, for The Leadership Challenge series of books and seminars. We like it because it comes at the publishing business from a bit of a different angle.

We’re doing the same thing with our work for ReadSocial, a new service that allows you to add a backchannel and social layer to any piece of digital content on the Web and in mobile apps.

In preparation for the release of our ReadSocial library for iOS, let’s take a look at the history of publishing. It’s clear that change is accelerating. While we’re not exactly historians with regard to this field, we attempted to triangulate or at least link to sources whenever possible. Pay close attention to the intervals between developments. Like any technology today, this is a space to watch. Who said books are dead? If anything, they might just be even more alive than ever, according to Publishers Weekly.

A Brief History of Publishing

People have been publishing information for thousands of years. There’s no way we could possibly illustrate every innovation in publishing since prehistoric man painted on cave walls, but we wanted to give you a brief timeline to show you how changes in the industry have really picked up since ancient times.

~30,000 B.C. – Cave walls become the first medium when ancient humans draw two rhinoceroses and one bison in Chauvet Cave in France. These are some of the earliest known drawings.

~4000 B.C. – Egyptians first use hieroglyphs inscribed on pottery jars and ivory plaques that would then be deposited in tombs. Brittanica presumes these markers identified the dead.

~3300 B.C. – Cuneiform, a combination of writing systems, sprouts in the Mesopotamia region. The system uses pictographs, and documents are written on a clay tablet with a stylus.

196 B.C. – The Rosetta Stone is cut in three languages – hieroglyphics, Egyptian demotic, and Greek. Translators were able to use the Greek inscription to decipher the hieroglyphics in the 1800s, more than a millennium after they had gone out of use.

~105 A.D. – The Chinese invent paper.

868 – The Diamond Sutra, a scroll of Buddhist text created through woodblock printing, is created. It is found in 1900 in China, and it’s one of the earliest books found with an exact date.

1456 – Gutenberg prints the Bible in Germany. It was the first book produced on a printing press anywhere in the world.

1690 – Publick Occurrences, the first English-American newspaper, debuts.

1731 – The first general-interest magazine, The Gentlemen’s Magazine, is printed in London. The magazine ended in 1907.

1776 – Thomas Paine anonymously printed Common Sense. The self-published book sold 100,000 copies within three months and became the best-selling work of the 18th century. With the advent of digital technology, however, self-publishing has been made incredibly easy.

1800s – The “penny press” arrives in the U.S. Newspapers were available for just a penny, allowing the masses to consume this information for the first time instead of just the elites. By reducing the barriers to read news, citizens began writing letters to the editors with more regularity. Michigan State University’s Brian Thornton said no first letter to the editor has been officially recognized, but that they increased with the penny press.

1899-1967 – Magazines explode, with several of today’s household names making their first appearances. National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Seventeen, Playboy and Rolling Stone all release their first issues during this time period.

1940-1971 – The first e-book is published, though Wikipedia contributors disagree with which was the first.

1970s – Punk rock and DIY zines become popular. According to Duke University, however, the first sci-fi fanzine was published in 1930.

Early 1990s – Leonard Riggio ­installs the modern version of the Barnes & Noble superstore. Riggio commented on this expansion in a 1992 New York Times article.

1993 – IBM invents the Simon, the first smartphone, according to PC World.

2002 – Research in Motion releases the BlackBerry.

Mid-2000s – Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter emerge. Bloggers rise to prominence. More than just letters to the editor, these tools give voices to the voiceless. See: Wired’s Who the Hell is Bob Lefsetz?

2007 – Apple releases the iPhone. Google announces Android. Amazon debuts the Kindle. Print-on-demand gains traction, allowing books to be printed one at a time once an order has been received.

2009 – Self-published titles top 764,000, more than twice that of traditional titles, according to Publishers Weekly.

2010 – Apple releases the iPad.

2012 – Float and ReadSocial team up to build the iOS library for the ReadSocial API framework.

Even with this condensed version of history, you can see how quickly innovations in publishing have developed. Month to month now, it seems, some publisher, software developer, or hardware manufacturer is putting out some new product that has the potential to change publishing. Apple announced iBooks Author in January, O’Reilly’s Tools of Change conference in February featured many sessions on digital publishing and mobile devices, and ReadSocial’s Travis Alber recently discussed the API with the Wall Street Journal. Not too far from today, you’ll see many more advancements in this industry. Everything from educational imprints to trade publications and fiction are rapidly changing.

Click here or contact us for more information on incorporating mobile learning into your next digital publication.

New Float Research Available

As of late 2011, there were more than 10,000 medical apps and healthcare apps available in the Apple App Store.


Based on the quantity of these apps and demand in the industry to understand just what is happening in the mHealth space, we have released our final three research reports from our study of mobile device usage in medicine and healthcare. Specifically, we focused on mobile’s role in wellness, self-care, and home care; medical practice and hospital management; and emergencies and training for emergencies. The new research is available, along with our other findings, at http://gowithfloat.com/mhealth.

Where You Can Find Float This Month

Float’s managing director Chad Udell will present at the Publishing Business Conference & Expo in New York City on Tuesday, March 20. His session, “Mobile Strategy Summit for Book Publishers,” will look at mobile apps, mobile websites, consumer usage trends among book apps and mobile sites, enhanced e-book apps, and more. To keep up with PBC, follow the speaker list we’ve curated on Twitter @floatlearning/pbc2012 and the #pbc2012 hashtag.

While Chad is in the Big Apple, Float’s mobile strategist and evangelist Jeff Tillett will be in Orlando, speaking on Instructional Design for Mobile Learning at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference 2012 on Thursday, March 22. Jeff will discuss available options for delivering mobile learning, how to shape content for mobile learning, why “less is more,” and he’ll go over the basics for building a mobile learning strategy. You can follow the conversation at #LSCon as well as another curated speaker list on Twitter @floatlearning/LScon2012.

Free Mobile Learning Conversations Webinar Discussing Rapid Development Tools on March 14

Our next free webinar in the Mobile Learning Conversations series is Wednesday, March 14, and will feature two special guests. RJ Jacquez is a former Adobe evangelist who is now an eLearning and mLearning analyst. He is writing an e-book and blogging at The Mobile Learning Revolution. Additionally, Robert Gadd, co-founder and president of OnPoint Digital, will be joining us. OnPoint Digital’s CellCast Solution most recently won Best Mobile Innovation for Education or Learning by the GSMA Global Mobile Awards 2012 during Mobile World Congress.

The webinar takes place on Wednesday, March 14, and begins at 1 p.m. EDT / 10 a.m. PDT. Register now for Mobile Learning Conversations >>

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One Response to A Brief History of Publishing

  1. […] to limit the number of the newly flourishing print shops. Later, in the eighteenth century, the power of the penny press brought the timely dissemination of news so widely to the masses that the common person became […]

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