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The Late Age of Print Paperback – 8 Mar 2011

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This collection of historical and commercial analysis should fascinate those seriously involved with book culture and/or the industry. Publishers Weekly 4/13/09 Forget the premature obituaries for books and reading. Striphas insists that books remain a vital presence in the twenty-first century. Booklist 5/15/09 The Late Age of Print is an important history of the book and their impact on (mostly) American culture. Sacramento Book Review 8/1/09 It is rare to say of a university press hardcover that it is a "must-read," but for those interested in the confluence of culture and economics as it relates to books, that is what The Late Age of Print is. -- Richard Nash Critical Flame 9/9/09 This book is a gold mine of information and thought about book culture in the 20th and 21st centuries. -- Gwen M. Gregory Information Today 9/1/09 A solid work of scholarship that fills in several significant gaps... Highly Recommended. Choice 10/1/09 A magnificent achievement that makes a compelling series of arguments about the continuing importance of books and book publishing. Publishing Research Quarterly 12/1/09 Striphas does an excellent job. -- Alan Jacobs Books and Culture July/August 2010 What is it that you purchase when you buy a book? In describing the answer, [Striphas]is admirably clear about the choices publishers or booksellers made, and why. Technology and Culture

About the Author

Ted Striphas is assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Culture and adjunct professor of American Studies and Cultural Studies at Indiana University. He is the coeditor of the book Communication as... : Perspectives on Theory and a special issue on intellectual property published by the journal Cultural Studies. To learn more, visit his Web site at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Must read for media studies 15 Jun. 2009
By Burcu S. Bakioglu - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I maintain that Late Age of Print is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the print media, media ecology, or media studies in general.

Striphas investigates the everydayness of books that he claims is intimately bound with: "a changed and changing mode of production; new technological products and processes; shifts in law and jurisprudence; the proliferation of culture and the rise of cultural politics; and a host of sociological transformations" (5). His main argument is that books had been integral to the making of modern consumer culture in the 20th century, as they were one of the first commercial Christmas presents, and today are responsible in part for the fall of that consumer capitalism into a society of controlled consumption, a term that he borrows from Henri Lefebvre. He convincingly shows that book publishing pioneered the rationalization and standardization of mass-production techniques in that the massive quantities of book production required efficient production processes and the move toward an hourly wage. Ultimately, The Late Age of Print investigates how books have become ubiquitous social artifacts entrenched with the everyday. His book successfully proves that book circulation is, and has always been, a political act because the circulation of books embody specific values, practices, interests, and worldviews (13). And as such, the practice of circulating books embody struggles over particular ways of life.

What does this mean for the late age of print (a term coined by Jay David Bolter to characterize the current dynamic era of book history instigated by media convergence where books remain central to shaping dominant and emergent ways of life)? Well, for some, like Sven Birkerts, author of Gutenberg Elegies, this is a crisis, a decline in the quantity (and the quality) of literature being read and it poses a real threat to culture in general.

Striphas explains (and I agree) that this is not a crisis in which familiar aspects of book culture is nearing its end, but rather, late age of print is a dynamic and open-ended era characterized by both permanence and change (175). He cites Elizabeth Eisenstein who contends that those who claim the end of print culture tend to do so by reinforcing modes of thought, conduct, and expression long associated with printed books.

In other words, indeed, this is a political act. It is the old way of life that is being threatened here. And by this I don't just mean how we read, or that one type of textuality is appreciated over others or one type of work (printed books) is valued over others (blogs, videogames, virtual worlds). Explaining that to consume isn't simply to use up, but to make do in unique and unexpected ways, Striphas focuses on how some of the defining attributes of consumer capitalism have been challenged by the emergence of a society of controlled consumption during the late age of print. While he discusses some of the creative ways in which consumers manage to appropriate (or make do) certain books (such as the Harry Potter franchise whose books leaked to the public despite the contractual agreement that the distributors had to agree), his book mainly focuses on how the society of controlled consumption plays out.

So even though the consumers are given leeway to "make do" or appropriate the works that are being released, they are highly regulated or controlled. The boundaries of consumer initiated anything is strictly defined, though sometimes these boundaries are violated by eager consumers who figure out creatively how to trespass the enforced limitations. For example, although Agrippa was programmed to self-erase, the work was successfully hacked and its contents were posted online. But that didn't mean that the work was experienced as it was meant to be experienced. In other words, the materiality of the work had been altered...

The long and short of it is, is that on The Late Age of Print is a very useful contribution to the media field. The best part? It's easy to read. And relevant to the experiences you have had...
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A guided tour of bookland 3 Mar. 2011
By S. Smith-Peter - Published on
Format: Paperback
This interesting and insightful book is a guided tour of the production and distribution of texts in the late age of print. After an introduction that is probably best skipped if you are a general reader, Striphas begins with a concrete investigation into how e-books are produced and disseminated. Striphas might say that people make books, but not in the circumstances of their own choosing. Throughout the work, he is interested in the larger context and avoids jeremiads about the death of the book, authenticity and so on. In the chapter on e-books, he gets into the technological and legal changes that were necessary for the creation of e-books.

In the next chapter, he argues that big box bookstores may not be killing small independent bookstores and that in some cases (he uses Durham, NC as an example) they may actually be used as part of an attempt to redress long-standing racial inequalities. A chapter on Amazon and internet distribution, which deserves to be widely read, includes a fascinating history of the ISBN. Did you know that the 978 prefix stands for Bookland, the mythical country from whence all books hail?

My favorite chapter, though, is the last one, on Harry Potter. Here, he uses the concept of transfiguration, first elaborated by J.K. Rowling, to trace how Harry Potter has changed when translated (not always in authorized ways) into Chinese, Russian, Belarusian and other languages. This is a real tour de force and worth getting the book for. A conclusion restates the themes of the chapters but doesn't add much new.

This is an excellent investigation of new trends in book publishing, distribution and partly on reception. I would definitely recommend it to those interested in those topics.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Consuming Book 7 Jan. 2013
By Brandon Hawk - Published on
Format: Paperback
In The Late Age of Print, Ted Striphas sets his main approach as a nuanced examination of American book culture in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In doing so, he challenges crisis discourses and laments for the loss of books. Striphas presents a well written, accessible, anecdotal, and effective critique of ideologies behind consumption, control, and transformations in American book culture.

Much of this study relies on the cultural history that Striphas establishes from the outset, emphasizing "the history and conditions by which books have become ubiquitous and mundane social artifacts in and of our own time" (4). By charting book culture from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first, Striphas lays out "a changed and changing mode of production; new technological products and processes; shifts in law and jurisprudence; the proliferation of culture and the rise of cultural politics; and a host of sociological transformations, among many other factors" (5). He does so by focusing on various aspects of American consumerism, the book industry, legal history, media relationships, all circulating around attitudes about the value of books in the everyday. With these topics as the mainstay themes of the book, Striphas takes up the topics of American bibliophilia, digital media, big-box bookstores (especially Barnes and Noble), online marketing (especially, Oprah's Book Club, and Harry Potter--all centerpieces of his cultural examinations.

Ultimately, he demonstrates, through several case studies, "how printed books and electronic media can complement one another" through a type of "synergy" in culture (188). Yet he does not insist on ignoring the transformations that have taken place and will continue to occur. He equally insists that consumers must be aware of the ways in which control--by the industry, marketers, publishers, as well as consumers and various aspects of popular culture--underpin the most important facets of book culture. Indeed, the polemical features of Striphas's book emphasize the need for continual reconsideration of these issues to best understand the various complexities of intermedial relationships. This is particularly the case for his approach to intellectual rights laws in a global economy and with emergent digital concerns. All of this is offered with well-balanced and salient critiques of the past, the present, and the future.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating history of the book as commodity 7 July 2011
By Maisie Harrison - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Striphas offers a fascinating look into the history of the book as an increasingly controlled commodity. He is at his best when recounting historical evidence, such as the creation of bookshelves, the slow adaption of the ISBN, and the lasting tension between independent booksellers and big box stores beginning in the early 1990s. However, I felt that he too often sought to create tenuous links between this more objective history and what he considers the cultural and sociological aspects of book buying. I enjoyed his hypothesis and theory, but found myself frequently getting lost in abstractions.

The Kindle edition has a great foreword, written in 2010, that reflects some of the rapidly changing aspects of the business, including the skyrocketing popularity of the e-book. Unfortunately, this particular e-book did its format an injustice: Every time a sentence began with a word beginning with the letters "Th," (eg: This, That, Those, Thus, The, Then, etc) the e-book would show it as "a'." So, instead of "Thus," for example, I was subjected to "a'u s" and left the figure out the word myself (fig.1). The strange thing is that this did not appear in the updated foreword, so I'm not sure where the technological malfunction occurred, but I found it to be distracting and felt that it took away from my reading experience in a big way. Be aware of this before you purchase the book.
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
For anyone with an interest in books or book culture 20 Sept. 2009
By Rusty Martin - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thought that the subject matter might be a bit dry, but Striphas is an engaging author and this delightful read is full of interesting information about how we consume books.
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