How we got hereThe printed book still is the reigning champion when it comes to a pleasant reading experience. The following bullet points sketch its history.
- It all started with single slabs of clay or wood. For example, clay tokens have been used in Mesopotamia as early as 8000 B.C. and later evolved into cuneiform script (around 3400 B.C.).
- Next were papyrus scrolls as used by the Egyptians (3000 B.C.).
- The following achievement was to use pages instead of scrolls. This had the advantages of much quicker access (skimming a book is much simpler than skimming a scroll) and of indexability (table of contents, keyword index, etc.). Both are crucial for efficiently managing knowledge. Intriguingly, the western recipe for scientific success, reductionism has been applied here, too: You split a big problem into small pieces that can be handled more easily.
- Finally, paper was an important step, because it could be mass-produced (in contrast with the alternatives papyrus and, later, parchment). It was common in Europe by the 15th century and invented in China much earlier, around the 2nd century A.D.
- The Gutenberg bible (1455) began the establishment of movable type printing. It improved on woodblock printing by having more durable materials and more uniform lettering.