Fall 2016 Publishing Program Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology SFU Vancouver Harbour Centre

Course Description: Technology and the Evolving Book explores the dramatic, controversial, and sometimes baffling movement within the book industry today as writers, readers, and markets move increasingly online. This course attempts to envision the future of the book by making sense of their past and present, and by understanding the technological and social forces that have shaped their trajectory. In doing so, it explores developments in the way books are produced, marketed, distributed, retailed, and perceived.

Approach: Each class will include a short lecture as well as extensive opportunities for student-led discussion informed by the week’s readings. Students will be expected to arrive in class not just having done the readings but ready to develop and express informed opinions about that week’s topic.

Course Goals: Students will become familiar with major theoretical and practical debates surrounding technology/media and its relation to publishing; will be exposed to different technologies/media, past and present; will intervene in debates about the present and future of publishing; and will become familiar with practical project management skills, including collaborations, planning, and moving from pitch to final product.

Required Reading: Only one book is required for this course (Andrew Piper’s Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times). You may read it in hard copy or as an ebook. All other readings are linked from this page.

Instructor: Hannah McGregor (, SFU Harbour Centre Office 3575

Lecture/Seminar: Tuesdays 2:30 pm–5:20 pm, SFU Harbour Centre room 1530

Office Hours: By appointment

September 6

Welcome to PUB 401

Setting the stage, course expectations, assignments, and other details.

Part One: Theory

September 13

Obsolescence and the Death of the book

Is the book really dying? Are academic monographs an obsolete form? Is print a thing of the past?

Required Readings

  • Piper, Andrew. 2012. Prologue. In Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. vii-xiii. {Darren Lau, Nicholas Liscin-Wilson}
  • Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. 2009. Introduction. In Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. Media Commons Press. {Margaret Lei}
  • Price, Leah. Dead AgainNew York Times 10 Aug 2012. {Jennifer Lee}
  • Nunberg, Geoffrey. 1996. Introduction. In Geoffrey Nunberg, ed., The Future of the Book Berkeley: University of California Press. {Adrianna Mowatt}


September 20

Old New Media

What evolutions have the book and print culture gone through in the recent past? What are the new media that we now think of as old, and how did they impact our current understanding of the book? How might a study of the past better equip us to navigate the future?


September 27

Mediations and Digital Media

What’s the difference between media and technology? If books themselves are media, what are their characteristics? How have those characteristics changed and stayed the same over time? How does digital media mediate differently? Can we talk about digital media as a radical rupture or media revolution, or part of a longer historical trajectory?


  • Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. 1998. Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation.  In Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: The MIT Press. {Nick Bond, Mike Lazar}
  • Kember, Sarah, and Joanna Zylinska. 2015. Mediation and the Vitality of Media. In Life after New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 1-28. {Tyler Gallop, Kyung Min Jee}
  • Piper, Andrew. 2012. “Take It and Read” & “Face, Book”. In Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1-44. {Katrina Abel, Olivia Gutjahr}

October 4

Authors & Readers

How have our understandings of authorship and reading changed in the context of the shifting media landscape (note that I didn’t say “been changed by“)?

  •  Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. 2009. Two: Authorship. In Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. Media Commons Press.  {Eco Yuan, Alvi Chowdhury}
  • Nakamura, Lisa. 2013. “Words with Friends”: Socially Networked Reading on Goodreads. PMLA 128 (1). 238-243. {Fiona Chiang, Stephanie Lee}
  • Piper, Andrew. 2012. “Turning the Page” and “Of Note”. In Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 45-82. {Sean Sliman, Jessica Qu}
  • Plate, S. Brent. 2015, December 16. Marginalia and Its DisruptionsLA Review of Books{Volun Cheong}


Part Two: Industry and Technology

October 11

Did “everything” change when publishing and literature went digital? Did nothing change? How the heck can we even tell?


October 18

Current events in the publishing industry

We explore things making news in the book industry. You pick the stories. Find any news stories related to the content of this course from the last 6 months or so. Below are some places to get started, but you are not constrained by these.

Everyone should come having read several stories, but have chosen at least two to talk about in class.



List of student-produced links here!

October 25

New Markets, New Models

What are examples of successful books or book-like things online? How do we define success? What can we learn from these examples?


November 1

Copyright & DRM

What does copyright look like today, and why does it matter? How do we balance intellectual property and freedom? Do we want more control or more openness?




Part Three: Case Studies

November 8

Case Studies in Digital Publishing



November 15

NO CLASS: Use this week to work on your final projects 

November 22

Self-Publishing & E-Books


November 29

Comics, Audiobooks & Podcasts