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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2012
I listen to Jeff Jarvis every week on the "This Week in Google" podcast. He drives me crazy 80% of the time. But, he's worth listening to the other 20%. Jeff is not afraid to think. He is not afraid to weave narratives and create hypotheses from observations from the modern world and from the world of history. He has a relentless habit of extracting meaning from events and trends, and expressing it is ways that make me think.

Gutenberg the Geek is a wonderful example of Jeff's style of thinking. The "Kindle Single" is worth reading simply as a summary of the life and accomplishment of Gutenberg. It is an important reminder to us how Gutenberg worked for years to achieve what he did. He didn't wake up and invent the printing press. He perfected his craft improvement upon improvement, while at the same time wrestling with the challenges of life and business.

If you're so inclined, though, the book will also give you a major serving of food for thought. In short, can we afford to stifle the modern-day equivalent of the printing press (i.e., the internet), because it too, like the printing press, is disruptive to various powers that be? Jeff raises those questions quite eloquently.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2012
Okay, so it wouldn't have quite the same punch as a title, but this Kindle Single isn't really about what made Gutenberg a geek; it's about what made him a great start-up founder. Jarvis gives the facts (as much as we can know them) of Gutenberg's story and writes that "In all, Gutenberg -- just like a modern-day startup -- depended on exploiting new efficiencies, achieving scale, reusing assets, dividing specialized labor, and setting standards." I had always pictured Gutenberg working alone and tinkering with the design of his printing press, but the author describes the business side of the story (which is quite compelling) and makes frequent comparisons to modern-day companies and entrepreneurs. At the very end, he pivots to a frequent (for Jeff Jarvis) theme of advocating for Internet freedom, which felt a little awkwardly tacked on. And speaking of awkwardly tacked on, here are two quotes I highlighted:
"This was a time of change and disruption -- which is like planting season for entrepreneurs."
"Don't today's entrepreneurs dream for a fraction of Gutenberg's impact? He was the inventor of history's greatest platform."

A good quick read, stylistically somewhere between a Wikipedia entry and an article in WIRED.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2012
Gutenberg was a geek (I prefer "nerd", being one) whose work invented our current day, much like our work together on the Internet is defining the future.

Jeff does a great job with the story of Gutenberg, correcting misconceptions including my own, and then show how it relates to Silicon Valley entrepreneurship and its context in evolving world history.

This is a really big deal, beyond my ability to articulate.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2012
This Single has one useful, interesting section on the business history of Gutenberg. The balance sheet alone is a lode of information. Consider: "wages, bed and board" for one worker for one year is about 15-20 guldens ($3000 to $4000). A handwritten Bible was priced at 80 guldens -- more than one worker makes in 4-5 years! Gutenberg's new printed bibles cost 20 gulden to manufacture: still more than a worker makes in a year. In modern American terms: a handwritten Bible had a price tag as large as a house, and a printed Bible had manufacturing costs comparable to a luxury car. Printing really was a big deal!

Unfortunately, much of the rest of the essay is commentary on the modern Internet. I get too much of that already from a lot of sources. I would have been more interested in historical developments between Gutenberg and 2010.

How much did a book cost when 10 years after Gutenberg? 50 years after? How about when Ben Franklin was a printer? In what year could a person earning the median wage for their society afford to buy 1 book per week? I wanted more of that history.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2012
Last October, while reading Jeff Jarvis' Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live,his compelling examination of the way in which the internet is changing -- and challenging -- various notions and cultural norms related to privacy and "publicness," I found myself intrigued with the chapter comparing Gutenberg and the era he ushered in, with the impact of the internet.

While I've read cursory attempts at such comparisons, Jeff's writing about Gutenberg was so fascinating, that I emailed him to ask where I could find more on the topic. Not only did he email me back some suggestions, he sent me a 5,000 word document he'd written about Gutenberg that had not made it into the book.

So I was thrilled to see that Jeff had self-published, Gutenberg the Geek as a Kindle Single ebook of 6,800 word, using this previously unpublished material to tell a completely different story that reminds us how history reveals to us patterns that never stop repeating themselves. (My only disappointment: He should have named the ebook "What Would Gutenberg Do?" in reference to his previous book, What Would Google Do? )

I found Gutenberg the Great similar to another one of my favorite Kindle Singles,Leonardo and Steve: The Young Genius Who Beat Apple to Market by 800 Years, a 14,000-word volume written by Stanford math professor Kevin Devlins, As Jarvis does with comparing Gutenberg and Silicon Valley startup guys, Devins compares the role Leonardo of Pisa (we know him as Fibonacci) with the role Steve Jobs played in introducing personal computing to our era.

In Jarvis' compact and concise book, he weaves in references and comparisons of Gutenberg's innovation and entrepreneurship to today's era of new technology and new business models built on that technology.

I feel certain no one else has written a book of any length that finds parallels in how Gutenberg and the founders of funded their startups -- but it's that kind of informative, and fun, comparison that enables this to be an informative, but quick, read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2012
This very quick read is a great introduction to how important Gutenberg truly is and how the events of his life do inform many of the modern day issues we face with information technology.

What i love about this title is that we get a great introduction to a man who shaped our world possible more than just about anyone else yet is somewhat forgotten. Sure just about everyone knows his name and what he did but the true importance of his achievement is dulled by the fact it changed so much about our lives. It is virtually impossible to think what the world would be like without Gutenberg yet he is essentially a footnote in history.

My only real issue with this book is that it is both too short and has an odd structure. It flows from topic to topic in an almost stream of consciousness way which leads to many points being repeated more than necessary and makes the overall point of the book a little less clear.

Still for less than a dollar this is well worth your time and money.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 29, 2012
This is a very interesting bit written by Jeff Jarvis about the history of a technology (the printing press) that changed the world. He draws and points at parallels to our current situation with the internet. It's a quick read, very well put together and easy to follow. Inspiring and hopeful, yet with a tone of warning as well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2012
I like the statement Jeff Jarvis makes when he says, "But we don't yet know what the internet truly is." Just as early man had to rely on scholars to record the history of their times, and probably didn't really know it was being done behind their backs anyway. Communications is what makes us different than the elephant, lion, the dog or cat. Where they do communicate, establish a pecking order, and as a dog and cat owner, we soon figure out which cat is alpha, or which dog is the pack leader, they are miles behind us in establishing a world-wide-network!

In the history of man, there has always been the equalizer. Back in the Old West, it was the Colt 45. In the days of Henry Ford it was the automobile. And in the mid 20th century it was the computer and right on its rear the Internet.

The development of the printing press more of the masses had access (key concept) to the same written material that beforehand was probably only available to the rich, nobility and to the few scholars of the Age. As we settled the West and we drove our Chevrolets there we soon had no where else to go physically. We developed laws and enforced them, and we were able to put our guns aside, as our Government was effective in protecting us with it's recognized local, national and international police forces.

What was left? Well the intellectual property that we all now had access to in the form of books, newspapers and magazines became a BAD thing in early 21st century. Thanks to the people of the late 20th century the next transition occurred. Tim Berners-Lee created a web browser, Larry Page and Sergey Brin created a more sophisticated search engine industry and Mark Zuckerberg creator of Facebook hired everybody to tell their public story to the world.

But we have become a dwindling planet, with waste. We are solving our lighting problems by deciding that when we want light, that is all we want, hence more energy efficient lighting. When we want heat then we find a more efficient way rather than rubbing electrons across the wires, for our birds in winter to keep their claws warm on.

The carbon footprint of cutting trees to read has become a leading issue in 'Green America' The fact that Mr. Jarvis has made this book an Ebook only is one of the results of this changing print to electron media transformation.

And in ending his book Mr. Jarvis says that what is resulting today, with the doors wide open for the knowledge that could explode to the most wonderful world we have ever witnessed is due to the expensive and massive expenditure of human industry in the development of the early printing presses!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I knew, of course, that Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, an invention that along with the compass and gunpowder, would have enormous impacts on the world. In this brief but fascinating article, author Jeff Jarvis gave a capsule biography of Gutenberg, but his focus was on presenting Gutenberg the entrepreneur. Gutenberg spent almost two decades developing and perfecting the printing press, and having little personal wealth, he had to find investment capital to keep going until his presses began to generate revenue.

Just as today, everything cost money: manufacturing the presses and associated hardware; metals - iron, lead, copper, antimony; high quality paper; and wages and room and board for as many as twenty workers. Borrowing the money was Gutenberg's only alternative, but when the loan came due, would he be able to repay his benefactor?

The author made some interesting direct comparisons of Gutenberg's strategy with modern-day entrepreneurs, and he went on to compare the significance of today's Internet with the influence that the printing press had on life almost half a millennium ago, with a warning that just as censorship of printed books is dangerous, governments and corporations must be prevented from taking control of the Internet.

Some interesting ideas and some nice tidbits of history wrapped up in only 300+ Kindle locations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2012
When you read the history of great inventors and discoverers, you sense that what made them such remarkable individuals was that the discoveries they made or the technologies they invented displaced current paradigms and would have a significant effect not just on their immediate milieu and the times they lived in but also on the future. These men and women shared also both a talent for invention and innovation and the requisite perseverance, entrepreneurship and farsightedness to influence society so widely and to such a great extent. This book is an engrossing illustration of some these attributes which Gutenberg undoubtedly possessed in abundance and used with great success. Jeff Jarvis explains how, by inventing printing and making writing widely accessible to people, Gutenberg revolutionised the process of dissemination of ideas and thus the evolution of culture.

In this book, Jarvis's main focus is on Gutenberg's entrepreneurship as it provides a device for Jarvis to find parallels between the inventor's achievements and effect on society and that of modern-day innovators and contemporary technologies like the Internet. Thanks to this, however, the book becomes rather limited in its scope and use to a wider audience and serves merely a teaser for the fuller vision of Gutenberg's life and the society and period he lived in. This limitation may also be driven perhaps by the demands of the short-form book. If you would however like to explore in more detail the social and historical context behind the Gutenberg story, you may want to read some of the other works cited by Jarvis. For a more tactile experience you could even visit Mainz in Germany which has not only the Gutenberg Museum housing the second Gutenberg Bible and other artefacts that Jarvis refers to but also the magnificent Romanesque cathedral (built around 975AD), just a couple of blocks from the Museum, where Gutenberg may have prayed.
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