Chapter

Getting to Know the American Market

in Steam-Powered Knowledge

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780226276519
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226276540 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226276540.003.0016
Getting to Know the American Market

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This chapter addresses the American market for book selling. The high levels of literacy and education that impressed William Chambers were not universal. Chambers was stunned that there was so much cheap print, that it was so widely available, and that it was treated as a perfectly normal phenomenon in America. He was convinced that the United States could be an important market for the Chambers' publications, although W. & R. Chambers would need to learn how to operate in a very different commercial context. The orientation of the American trade toward reprints explains why contemporary commentators routinely remarked on the cheapness of American books. Fierce commercial competition allowed the American readers to enjoy prices for reprints far below those imaginable in Britain. Despite the differences in their context and their strategies, W. & R. Chambers had in common with the American trade an admiration and enthusiasm for new technologies.

Keywords: book selling; American market; William Chambers; American trade; print; American books

Chapter.  5255 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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