A History of the Book in America. Vol. 4. Print in Motion: The Expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880-1940

Article excerpt

Kaestle, Carl E, and Janice A. Radway, eds. A History of the Book in America. Vol. 4. Print in Motion: The Expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880-1940. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. 669 pp. $60.

The Print in Motion volume of this expansive series defines for itself a larger arena of print than "the book" might evoke, and it designates its historical breadth more often in terms of celebrations, discoveries, and inventions than through divisions of war. The enlarged scope of publishing that the volume encompasses and the uniquely anchored time span combine for a refresh- ing perspective from which journalism historians may draw information and inspiration to further their research and teaching endeavors.

Moving from discussions of publishing as an industry to reading as a cultural construction, the volume incorporates a profusion of journalistic considerations. In introducing the complex relationship between the changing culture of print and emerging industrial capitalism, the editors (Carl F. Kaestle and Janice A. Radway) convincingly argue the relevance of the time period under consideration and tie it to the "motion" of a publishing industry in transition. They note that, in terms of formal education, public libraries, and literacy rates, the cultural progress by 1 940 provided a foundation for an industrialized national culture of global prominence.

The book is an eloquent read, with chapters conveying the high social import of print production and distribution in shaping modern culture. One of the more unexpected explorations in the volume is the development of reading as both a cultural and a private ritual, a discussion which is framed by a theory of reading as a progression from newspapers to literature. If journalism historians can resist taking umbrage at its elitist implications, this stance reveals how integrated the various types of reading are and how essential each is in the formation of a cultural identity. Despite an increased emphasis on readers in the historiography of print culture, it is noted little research has been conducted on the media's contributions to this continuum, and therefore the cultural implications have yet to be fully explored. …