Watch a Two-Minute History of the Book Narrated by Douglas Adams

Slate's Culture Blog
May 29 2012 5:32 PM

Did You See This? The History of the Book in Two Minutes

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A still from "Getting the Book Invented Properly," a video by Gavin Edwards

In 1991, the Voyager Company, a pioneer in CD-ROM production, launched the Expanded Books project, aimed at re-imagining what books might be in the digital age. The books, released on CD ROM, were “expanded” in that they had a handful of new features: search capability, variable font size, and annotations. Their first three titles were The Complete Annotated Alice, Jurassic Park, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The author of that last book, Douglas Adams, recorded a bit of promotional audio cheekily tracing the history of the book, from its initial “hardware problems” (“the hardware was rock-based, which meant that it was heavy, cumbersome, and, above all, very hard”) to the point where books can be “scrunched up into silicon, or something.” Over the last several weeks, The Literary Platform hosted a competition to provide animation for that audio. They announced their winner late last week.

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While the video below, by Gavin Edwards, did not win, it was singled out by Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings as perhaps the best of the bunch. I have to agree. (And for a more detailed look at the past and future of the book, don’t miss Michael Agresta’s take.)

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.