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Gutenberg the Geek summary

The World’s First Tech Entrepreneur

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Brief summary

"Gutenberg the Geek" by Jeff Jarvis tells the story of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, and his impact on society, including the rise of the written word, journalism, and the spread of knowledge.

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    Gutenberg the Geek
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    Like many entrepreneurs, Gutenberg lived in turbulent times, building his major innovation incrementally.

    In the 15th century, religious, political and economical change was brewing in Johannes Gutenberg’s hometown of Mainz, Germany. In addition to a power struggle between the emerging middle class and the old aristocratic families, the city itself was drowning in so much debt that creditors forced it to take austerity measures.

    As we know today, such periods of change and disruption often spawn entrepreneurs.

    At the age of 40, Gutenberg, a goldsmith, embarked on his first venture, which was perhaps less grandiose than one might expect: manufacturing and selling small mirrors to pilgrims. This endeavor was financially fairly successful, but, more importantly, it taught him crucial startup skills: how to recruit a team, set up a legal structure and raise funds.

    You see, Gutenberg had bigger dreams than vending trinkets to pilgrims. In secret, he was developing the invention he’s remembered for today: the printing press.

    This new technology required massive innovation, improvement and optimization on many fronts.

    For one, the type needed to be cast from molten metal. Here, Gutenberg’s invention of a versatile mold and the right mixture of metals helped achieve a previously unheard of production pace; a single foundry worker could cast up to 3000 letters a day. This greatly sped up the printing process.

    Another key technological innovation was the press itself, which Gutenberg modeled after the contraptions used in wineries, thereby vastly increasing printing precision.

    Meanwhile, finding the right ink also took some innovation; Gutenberg mixed it from soot, amber and linseed oil to produce that rich dark tone still common today.

    Developing and fine-tuning all these components took nearly 20 years, so you couldn’t say Gutenberg owes his fame to a sudden flash of innovation.

    Of course, like any good tech entrepreneur, before launching his final product, the Latin Bible, Gutenberg started with a prototype, a beta-version, in the form of a Latin grammar book.

    The book was downright ugly, its pages crammed tight with words; it proved, however, that the press worked.

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    What is Gutenberg the Geek about?

    Gutenberg the Geek (2012) examines the life and business of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, and, by drawing numerous parallels between him and modern Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, explains how he was a pioneer of tech entrepreneurship.

    Gutenberg the Geek Review

    Gutenberg the Geek (2012) by Jeff Jarvis is a fascinating exploration of the life and impact of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. Here's why you should add this book to your reading list:

    • This book provides a compelling historical account of Gutenberg's journey, shedding light on his struggles, innovations, and lasting influence on society.
    • By delving into the relationship between technology and knowledge dissemination, Jarvis offers valuable insights into the transformative power of inventions.
    • Through rich storytelling and engaging anecdotes, the book effortlessly captures the reader's attention, making the story of Gutenberg come alive.

    Best quote from Gutenberg the Geek

    As with good software, functionality comes first; beauty is a feature.

    —Jeff Jarvis
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    Who should read Gutenberg the Geek?

    • Entrepreneurs, innovators and venture capitalists
    • Anyone interested in history

    About the Author

    Jeff Jarvis is an American journalist, academic and advocate for the Open Web who has written for the San Francisco Examiner and The Guardian. His previous book, What Would Google Do?, is also available in blinks.

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    Gutenberg the Geek FAQs 

    What is the main message of Gutenberg the Geek?

    The main message of Gutenberg the Geek is the power of determination and pursuing your passion.

    How long does it take to read Gutenberg the Geek?

    The reading time for Gutenberg the Geek varies, but it can be read in a few hours. The Blinkist summary takes just 15 minutes.

    Is Gutenberg the Geek a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Gutenberg the Geek is a captivating read that sheds light on the life of an influential inventor. It's definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Gutenberg the Geek?

    The author of Gutenberg the Geek is Jeff Jarvis.

    What to read after Gutenberg the Geek?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Gutenberg the Geek, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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