Wow, A Printing Press! How Do We Make Money?

It's not always obvious how to make money from fancy new technology — like, say, the printing press. Or the web.

"What you've got to do once you’ve got 300 identical copies of a book is you’ve got to sell it to people who don’t even yet know they want it," Andrew Pettegree, a historian who just wrote a book on the early days of printing, tells the Boston Globe.

He continues:

And whereas the printers were taking advice from 15th-century humanist scholars, who said, "Wouldn’t it be good to have this? Wouldn’t it be good to have that?" they weren’t in any position to give them any advice on how to dispose of these 300 copies. ...
It's this classic example of how you get technological innovation without people really being aware of the commercial implications, of how you can make money from it. There's quite a little similarity in the first generation of print with the dot-com boom and bust of the '90s, where people have this fantastic new innovation, a lot of creative energy is put into it, a lot of development capital is put into it, and then people say, "Well, yeah, but how are we going to make money from the Internet?" And that takes another 10 years to work out.

With the printing press, it turned out, the real money was in boring stuff like calendars and municipal announcements. Read the whole Q&A here.

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