Print in Motion: The Expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880-1940

By Carl F. Kaestle; Janice A. Radway | Go to book overview

Introduction

Carl F. Kaestle and Janice A. Radway

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Section II of this volume focused on the mainstream publishing trades—the publishers, the printers, the editors, the advertisers, and others who produced the nation’s most highly regarded or most popular books, the best-selling magazines, and the big-city newspapers. The essays in that section demonstrate profound ferment and expansion in those enterprises. During our period, these publications reached wider audiences. More people gained a high school education, and print became more ubiquitous in their lives. It would seem that mainstream publications had the potential to gather more people into a shared national culture. As we shall see, however, the very same processes of declining prices and increasing access to publishing also promoted the proliferation of diversity in print production.

This section moves outward from the mainstream publications to examine the diverse social uses of print and does so in two dimensions. First, there were whole sectors other than commercial publishing, including government, religious, and academic publishers, that often operated under different motives, economic circumstances, publishing practices, and distribution methods. Most important, they were not in a pure market situation. They enjoyed certain subsidies.1 In the academic world, for example, the full costs of print production were often not borne by the readers. University presses and academic journals were subsidized by universities and by government grants to research libraries. In the religious sector, churches often subsidized publishing ventures from general revenues and distributed many materials at a loss or without charge. Governments—especially the federal government—were prodigious producers of print. Well known for its regulatory, legislative, and bureaucratic use of paper, the federal government also published influential works on exploration, history, and science, as Charles Seavey’s chapter details. Recognizing that there was widespread activity outside the commercial sector complicates our picture of the history of print in salutary ways.

The second dimension of diversity lies in the social uses of print by distinct groups in the society, as when radical politicians, or Hispanic Americans, or

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