Faith in Reading: Religious Publishing and the Birth of Mass Media in America
In the twenty-first century, mass media corporations are often seen as profit-hungry money machines. It was a different world in the early days of mass communication in America. Faith in Reading tells the remarkable story of the noncommercial religious origins of our modern media culture. In the early nineteenth century, a few visionary entrepreneurs decided the time was right to reach everyone in America through the medium of print. Though they were modern businessmen, their publishing enterprises were not commercial businesses but nonprofit societies committed to the publication of traditional religious texts. Drawing on organizational reports and archival sources, David Paul Nord shows how the managers of Bible and religious tract societies made themselves into large-scale manufacturers and distributors of print. These organizations believed it was possible to place the same printed message into the hands of every man, woman, and child in America. Employing modern printing technologies and business methods, they were remarkably successful, churning out millions of Bibles, tracts, religious books, and periodicals. They mounted massive campaigns to make books cheap and plentiful by turning them into modern, mass-produced consumer goods. Nord demonstrates how religious publishers learned to work against the flow of ordinary commerce. They believed that reading was too important to be left to the "market revolution," so they turned the market on its head, seeking to deliver their product to everyone, regardless of ability or even desire to buy. Wedding modern technology and national organization to a traditional faith in reading, these publishing societies imagined and then invented mass media in America.
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Account agents American Baptist Publication American Bible Society American Messenger American Sunday School American Tract Society Annual Report 1851 Antebellum Arthur Tappan auxiliary societies Baptist Publication Society Baxter Baxter’s Call believed Bible and tract Board of Publication books and tracts Boston Cambridge century chap charity cheap Christian colportage Colporteur Reports colporteurs cost culture denominational destitute distribution doctrines early economic Elias Boudinot England Tract Society enterprise evangelical Executive Committee families free riders God’s grace History Home Evangelization Indians Jedidiah Morse John literacy Market Revolution mass media millennial millennium Mills mission Missionary New-York nineteenth numbers organization Oxford University Press Peter Dobkin Hall Philadelphia Presbyterian Board printing Propagating the Gospel Puritan readers Religion religious books religious reading Richard Baxter Scriptures sell Soci Society for Propagating Society of Philadelphia society’s sola scriptura SPGNA stereotype plates stereotypography story Sunday School Union supply tracts and books Twenty-Sixth Annual Report word Wosh York