Gutenberg the Geek: A Kindle Single

I’ve just published Gutenberg the Geek, arguing that the inventor of printing was our first geek, the original technology entrepreneur. I find wonderful parallels in the challenges and opportunities he faced and those that face Silicon Valley (or entrepreneurial journalism) startups today. So I retell his story from an entrepreneurial perspective, examining how he overcame technology hurdles, how he operated with the secrecy of a Steve Jobs but then shifted to openness, how he raised capital and mitigated risk, and how, in the end, his cash flow and equity structure did him in. This is also the inspiring story of a great disruptor. That is why I say Gutenberg is the patron saint of entrepreneurs.

The Kindle Single came out of my obsession with Gutenberg that developed while I researched Public Parts. I also wanted to learn how Kindle Singles work (more on that later) -… and prove that I have nothing against charging for content! But I’m not charging much, only 99 cents (free in the Amazon lending library).

Tomorrow, I’ll link to an excerpt from the piece. I’d be honored if you bought the piece and said what you think here or at the Amazon page.

  • Jeff,

    This was the first time reading a Kindle Single, and my first time using the Amazon lending library. Thanks for writing this!

    Here is my 4-star review that I submitted to Amazon.

    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.

    • Walter,
      Loved your review and very appreciative of your taking the time to submit it. Glad this fell under the 20 or your 80/20 rule!

  • Tom

    Hmm, I clicked on jeffs link
    and amazon wants to charge me 3 dolllar and 44 cents. Probably for shipping the bits overthe internet to me…

    is this Amazon upping the price?. Its probably still worth it ( I know you from your previous two books and “twig”) but this is strange isn’t it?

    • Are you outside the US? Amazon tells me they are fixing a problem ther.e

  • Tom

    unintentionally botched my emailaddr. this one is okay

  • John Callan

    I can’t wait to read this, Jeff, but am not yet geeky enough I guess, i.e I don’t have an e-reader. It’s almost worth the cost of getting one I guess. But if not, is there any other way to get it?

    • John:
      You don’t need an eReader to read an eBook. There is a free Kindle App for both Macs and Windows PCs. You can download the App and read the eBook on your computer, iPad (or other tablet), or even a smartphone.

  • B. Nelson

    Gutenberg the Geek (Kindle Single) [Kindle Edition]
    Jeff Jarvis (Author)
    4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews) | Like (2)
    Kindle Price: $2.99 includes free international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet

    …accessed Amazon from here in the Turks and Caicos and above is pricing.

  • I am a fellow Gutenberg obsessive. My most popular blog post is

    Unfortunately I don’t have a Kindle – although, like John, this may be enough to tempt me.

    Have you read Elizabeth Eisenstein’s Printing Press as an Agent of Change?

    • Update: John – have now found that you can get Kindle app for PC and Android – problem solved

      • Sorry Jeff – Now got book on PC, had a quick flick, of course you have read Eisenstein. Silly question.

        • Not silly at all. I read Eisenstein in my research for Public Parts and I’m privileged that I got to talk with her as well. she was critical to my thinking. Have you read her new book?

        • No I haven’t – what is the title? (Most remiss of me to have missed it)

          What I find the most interesting is not just the similarities between Gutenberg and Silicon valley geeks, but also the opportunities that revolutions bring to better understand what went before and thus predict what might be to come. It is the parenthesis issue you refer to. Gutenberg created a marriage between information and a means of institutionalised distribution (institutionalised on account of its expense and degree of difficulty). However, we have been largely blind to the implications of this on today’s society, in much the same way as woolly mammoth’s didn’t realise the ice age was cold. The social media revolution is creating a separation between content and institutionalised distribution – thus a separation between journalism and journalists, between news as a finished product and news as a raw material, between the medium and the message, perhaps most significantly between institutions and processes. It is only when you take the trouble to really uncover the hidden Gutenberg dependencies that still exist in today’s societies that you can start to figure out what will happen now that those dependencies are breaking. And also, of course, finally come to a realisation of just how significant the original Gutenberg revolution actually was and how relevant it remains.

          Your – publication is most opportune. I also think there is much more than can be achieved by using the Gutenberg lens to study and understand the post-Gutenberg future. Would be very keen to create a group of ‘post-Gutenbergists’ to discuss this!

  • Pingback: Read Jeff Jarvis’s Kindle Single, Gutenberg the Geek « Richard Stacy()

  • Dieter

    2.68 € in our first geeks own country. Smells like the minimum of the 70 % royalty option in the KDP EUR List price requirement.

    But we are used to high book prices in Germany, because its considered a valuable cultural good, even in its intangible form, the book that is.

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  • Jeff, Just added your book to my reading stack! THANKS!

    Richard, Love the comment, and the delightful writing. A couple of lines really lit up my imagination:

    “woolly mammoth’s didn’t realise the ice age was cold”

    “uncover the hidden Gutenberg dependencies”