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Books as a Commodity

Watch the video then read the materials for this section.

A commodity is a marketable item produced to address a want or need.

Books are goods generally created to be sold. According to Travis (1999),

"separate (yet inseparable) from their lives as texts, books live for us as commodities, as a specific kind of for-profit media form within a saturated communications environment. Yet thinking about the book as a commodity, as a good that is good for thinking, does not come naturally."

In the article What is the History of Books?, Darnton (1982, 76) notes that publishers, shippers, and booksellers play distinct roles in the book cycle. He asks questions such as "how did publishers draw up contracts with authors, build alliances with booksellers, negotiate with political authorities, and handle finances, supplies, shipments, and publicity?"

This section of the course explores the book as a commodity. Explore each of the following pages in this section.

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