The reading “A Framework for the History of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880-1940” by Carl F. Kaestle and Janice A. Radway is the first chapter in the book A History of the Book in America: Volume 4: Print in Motion: The expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880-1940. In this first chapter, Kaestle and Radway give a relatively brief historical account of the fundamental changes that occurred in the United States between 1880 and 1940 that transformed our society. They touch on topics from immigration to increases in productivity and efficient distribution. Kaestle and Radway also spend a great deal of time in this chapter discussing “print cultures” which were crucial to developing and expanding communication networks and national transportation. The introduction and quick rise in popularity of printed newspapers, magazines, and books not only helped spread news in a quicker fashion, but also helped America develop from an economic standpoint. These cultures of print allowed for better management of companies, spread out across the the country, faster identification systems, a massive influx of print advertising, and an economic growth in trades such as papermaking, binding, book design, bookselling and library work. The chapter also address the power cultures of print held from a social and political standpoint for certain people, such as those in higher economic standing with access to a better education or editors and publishers who were able to decide what was printed and what was not.
The book in general, and specifically this chapter, is written with a historical outlook more than anything else for current scholars as well as the general public to use as a reference when studying past changes within the media. It was published in 2009 as the fourth of five volumes. Kaestle is a University Professor Emeritus of Education, History, and Public Policy at Brown University, while Radway is a Professor of Literature at Duke University and a cultural studies and feminist theorist. The book was received well as a cultural reference and many of Kaestle and Radway’s peer complimented them on the ease of reading the book and chapters offer while still providing historical information. Ann Fabian, who is a Professor of History and American Studies at Rutgers University said, “The volume reads beautifully, with each essay filling out the framework of the whole. The editors have preserved the distinct authorial voices behind clearly written and well constructed chapters, which cover the production, circulation, and uses of print. I congratulate the editors for the successful completion of a difficult task, for producing a useful reference book that is much more than the sum of its parts,” in her review of this volume of the book.