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Chapter 2: BOOKS. A. The nature of language B. Writing as a communication technology Implications for the use of writing Implications for the use of print C. The evolution of written documents D. Books as a mass medium E. The publishing industry. The nature of language.

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chapter 2 books
Chapter 2: BOOKS

A. The nature of language

B. Writing as a communication technology

  • Implications for the use of writing
  • Implications for the use of print

C. The evolution of written documents

D. Books as a mass medium

E. Thepublishingindustry

the nature of language
The nature of language
  • Arbitrariness: There is no necessary or logical relationship between the words we use and the objects these words refer to. The relationship is based on social agreement.
  • The linguistic sign: relationship between signifier, signified, and referent.
writing as a new communication technology
Writing as a New communication technology
  • Sight dominance in the learning process: a shift from a moving mouth and a resonant ear to a quiet hand and a reflective eye.
  •   Words moved from the world of sound to that of space.
Helped humans move from a memory based to a record based mode of being.
  • For oral cultures, the past is not itemized, it is a way to renew awareness of present existence. Matters from the past that do not entail any present relevance are commonly discarded.
  • For literate cultures, the past is an itemized terrain, filled with true and disputed facts.
print technology
Print Technology
  • Helped create the new cult of individualism: bibles and the protestant movement.
  • The birth of new forms of art: e.g. novels.
Printed books are the first uniform and mass produced items in the history of the world. They provided a paradigm for uniform commodity culture from the 16th century onward.
the evolution of written documents
The evolution of written documents
  • First transition: lengthy scrolls made of papyrus
  • Second transition: books with bound pages with writing on both sides and hard cover
Third transition: Johannes Gutenberg perfected the printing press that could make large numbers of identical copies.
  • Fourth transition: books can be downloaded from the internet and can be read on screen.
books as a mass medium
Books as a mass medium
  • Books fit our definition of mass media: their messages are produced by professional communicators and are transmitted via printed pages to a large and diverse audience.
  • Books differ from other media: are not supported by advertising. In movies, there is product placement.
A bestseller may sell no more than 10 million copies, less than the audience of a sit. com. (situation comedy) during a single day of television.
  • Books often persuade the influential, promoting powerful ideas and inspiring great changes.
the book publishing industry
The Book Publishing Industry

Book publishing and commercialism:

  • Most publishing houses are privately owned businesses, what they offer the public is determined by a sharp focus on profits.
  • The issue of consolidation of ownership
  • Book publishing looks less like an intellectual enterprise and more like any other modern industry.
the publisher s role
The publisher’s Role
  • To select and help shape what will be published.
  • To produce the book as a physical artifact.
  • To advertise and distribute the book.
types of publishers and types of books
Types of publishers and types of books

Types of publishers:

  • Some companies focus on a general topic: medicine, law, fiction, art, religion….
  • A few companies focus on « instant » books.

Types of books:

  • Trade, textbooks, children’s, reference, technical and scientific, law, medicine.
The key people in the production and distribution of books:

Authors, editors, book manufacturers, bookstores, sales personnel.

Authors: an important resource, and yet are outsiders in the publishing world. They receive a substantial advance (against royalties), ranging from few thousand dollars to few millions.

Royalties are some agreed-upon small percentage of the publisher’s earnings. Authors may receive additional income if the book is truly successful, and may even get movie and television rights.

Authors use literary agents to get them contracts with publishers. The agent receives about 15% of the author’s share of earnings.


They work on the author’s original manuscript:

  • Development editors: organize the book effectively and help make its statement on the topic effective.
  • Acquisition editors: generates ideas for books and look for able and willing authors.
  • Copy editors: check the spelling, syntax, grammar….
  • Other editors develop illustrations and design the print style, cover, and format of the book.
book manufacturers bookstores and sales personnel
Book manufacturers, bookstores, and sales personnel
  • Publishers contract with printers and binders.
  • Sales representatives persuade independent bookstores to carry the company’s books, school boards to adopt them, college and university faculty to assign them.
  • The publisher’s work is analogous to that of a movie producer.
the publisher as entrepreneur
The Publisher as Entrepreneur
  • New York City, the capital of publishing houses. Just 2% of the U.S. publishers account for more than 75% of book sales.
  • Marketing techniques used: direct mail, telephone marketing, Web sites, professional meeting displays, book clubs, and magazine ads. Virtually every promotional device used to market other products has been tried.
the digital future of books
The Digital Future of Books

It is unlikely that books printed on paper will become obsolete.

Recent changes in retailing:

  • « Mom and pop » bookstores are rapidly being replaced by megastores operated by national chains.
  • World Wide Web had simplified book purchasing: You no longer have to walk or drive to a store, you can order the book online and have it delivered to your house. (
printed books via the internet
Printed Books via the Internet
  • Some bookstores have the ability to download the content of a book and print it on the spot for the customer.

Result: all that’s needed in an electronic database. No need for a warehouse full of printed books, no need for shipping to the retailer, and stocking large inventory. No losses on unsold books.

Book venders maintain a web site, a server, and a database of book titles: Books can be transmitted quickly and downloaded directly to the customer’s computer, and then to a dedicated device specially designed for reading these types of books.