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Oh for life before the destructive rise of disruptive technologies. Back in the 1830s books were expensive things for serious readers, newspapers cost 6 cents and published serious journalism, periodicals — costing up to 25 cents per copy — were filled with lengthy, serious works.

Then pulp made paper arrived, and steam driven rotary presses. The telegraph, steamships, and railroads brought news too quickly, and penny papers spread the news in short bits, while feeding readers junk — crime and sex stories and bits like that Englishman’s “American Notes.”

Attention spans collapsed. School kids started writing on blackboards and tablets, losing all grasp of the long write. Anthologies were brought into classrooms and homes to replace novels. Cheap short books and cheap magazines further destroyed children’s commitment to being serious readers.

The world fell apart, and ended around 1870.

  • Ira Socol
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