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Letter to Johannes – on Bibles and Other Print Niches

Monday, 03 February 2014 | By Gerry Mulvaney


Johannes Gutenberg
Mainz, Germany

Dear Johannes,
Rehovot, Israel
February 2014

I thought I would write and let you know how your business was going. It has been a long time since you started it in Mainz in 1440 with your new press, and like many businesses it has had its ups and downs over the years. You had great success with your bible, but I have to tell you that as well as the book printing market, we have developed a number of other very successful niches.

Letter to Johannes

A Copy of a Gutenberg Bible Printed on his Invention: the Movable-Type Press

Obviously religious books was the market you were working on and I think you would be surprised to see how many other subjects have been covered now in addition to religion. The books about engineering and politics lead to an Industrial revolution in Europe and spread knowledge much more widely across all classes of people, not just the ruling elite.

However you will never guess what happened next – a chap in America, a place you will not have heard of, invented a new technology which enables books to be sent down a telephone line (a long story – I will tell you about it in another letter) and prints them on a reusable page. I am afraid it has had a big impact on the book printing market, but the good news is that people all over the world have a bigger range of books available to them.

Another successful market that your press opened up was the ability to create marketing materials to promote businesses. We have also found a way of adding pictures and colour which has been much appreciated by the customers. Incidentally I will have to tell you about photography, when I write next, because we can now capture reality and reproduce it.

Businesses around the world are using printed products to increase their sales, and although the technology for sending information down a telephone line has impacted this as well, customers still appreciate having something permanent and tactile.

Something else you will never guess – we are also printing onto the packaging that we use for food and other products. We can show customers what they are buying, what they can do with it and what it contains. This is a huge market and shows no sign of slowing down.

The Growth of Printing and Digital Printing

In fact when we look at the printing business as a whole, you will be shocked at how big it has grown. I was recently reading a survey from an organisation called Smithers-Pira which reckons it will have grown to a US$980 billion global business in 2018 with nearly 40% of it attributed to digital printing. Not bad for a goldsmith from Mainz – eh?

Next time I write I will tell you about a guy called Benny Landa, who has invented another print technology called Nanography®, still based on your invention. You would love him – he has got the same drive and vision as you and in the years to come may well have the same impact as you.

Best wishes,

Landa S10 - Printing Press