To trace the origin of the first “content”, one has to trace the history of books which began with the invention of three things – writing, paper and a medium to mass produce the same. Written content as a form of content has dominated the industry ever since. Papyrus scrolls gave way to paper, which gave way to digitalized displays, but the matter remains the same.
A Library of Clay
The first written content can be found engraved on clay tablets. While a number of civilizations had the system, Mesopotamia led the revolution in the 3rd Millenia. The Kings of Ancient Mesopotamia had access to over 20000 clay tablets preserved in their personal library. While the Kings of old might have found it difficult to form the symbols themselves, they had access to a team of professional copyists, an ancient form of modern copywriters. While one might assume that clay tablets became extinct in the BCs, they actually survived till the 19th century in certain locations around the world, including the Sahara and the Philippines. Thus, the ancient content was accessible only to the Kings and their near and dear ones. Mass production was invented only later.
Papyrus – Religion and Business
Papyrus scrolls did not develop as a newer version of the aforementioned clay tablets but were invented almost simultaneously at a different geographical location – Egypt. Religion was the buzz word of the day, with the sun god being the main protagonist of a myriad of storylines. Thus, the Papyrus content was largely based on religion. Apart from religious content, they were also used for another purpose – maintaining accounts. People were religious and they meant business. The maintenance of accounts could hardly be considered to be content those days, but today when archaeologists derive a ton of information from those discoveries, it can be considered otherwise. Other forms of material were also used at different locations. The obsession of Asians with Bamboo led them to develop scrolls made of bamboo, and in some parts of Europe, wax tablets and leather scrolls were in use. The trend continued till the middle-ages till paper was developed.
Paper was invented in China during the early Ads, but the then people did not use it for unconventional purposes, such as writing, but they largely used it for packaging purposes. Paper on a broader scale was developed only during the middle ages, with the introduction of water-powered mills in Europe, primarily in Spain. With the invention of paper, scrolls had given way to codices, and people no longer needed to carry 40 feet long scrolls and get a workout trying to finish a scroll, but could simply sit in a cosy place and finish the codex, by turning sheet after sheet. With the beginning of the industrial age during the mid 15th century, the printing press was developed and content in written format was distributed to the populace in an easy manner. The monopoly of kings and priests with regards to written content ended with the development of the printing press and the person who gets the credit is Johannes Gutenberg.
21st century gave rise to the evolution of digital content and people were concerned if books will be gone by the century and the only content available will be through the digital medium. While the smell of a new book cannot be substituted even by the smell of freshly brewed coffee, some sacrifices need to be made for the greater good of the commons. As far as written content exists and the public has access to the same, formats hardly matter.