B. Hawk's Reviews > The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control

The Late Age of Print by Ted Striphas
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Dec 22, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: history, media-studies
Read from December 22, 2012 to January 06, 2013

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 Amazon.com), 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.
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