Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
This is the most recent edition of Feather's highly successful book on the origins and nature of the information society. Although he has always said it was never intended to be a text book, that is surely how it is being used in introductory LIS courses around the world. The writing is deceptively simple as the author takes us through the history of writing, paper, printing, the early book trade and publishing industry, on to the modern mass media. He then adds comments on the economic dimension, and his material on the early book trade should make many critics of using information as a tradeable commodity sit up and recognise that this has gone on for a long while. He then discusses the politics of information, especially the divide between the information rich and the information poor. Finally, he makes us think about the role of the information professional in the current environment. It is in the earlier material that Feather's greatest expertise lies, and this is what enables him to put forward his theories of the information society based mostly on continuity and only partly on change. Authors with less familiarity with the history of the book are more likely to view the modern as something totally new, and it is refreshing (and insightful) to be reminded by Feather that there is less radical change in the information society than we would otherwise think.
There isn't a lot new in the fourth edition compared to the third. The structure remains exactly the same, with only a brief section called “managing knowledge” added at the end of the new edition. The main change is a greater stress placed on the importance of computer networks. Elsewhere, small parts of the text have changed to make small shifts in emphasis, and to add new evidence where it has appeared. If this book isn't yet in your library then add it straight away. It also belongs in the personal collections of LIS teachers and senior librarians.