Paper is one of the simplest and most essential pieces of human technology. For the past two millennia, the ability to produce it in ever more efficient ways has supported the proliferation of literacy, media, religion, education, commerce and art. It has created civilisations, fostering the fomenting of revolutions and the stabilising of regimes. History's greatest press run produced 6.5 billion copies of Mao zhu xi yu lu, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Zedong) and Leonardo da Vinci left behind only 15 paintings but 4,000 works on paper. Now, on the cusp of "going paperless"-and amid speculation about the effects of a digitally dependent society-we've come to a world-historic juncture to examine what paper means to civilisation. Through tracing paper's evolution, Mark Kurlansky challenges common assumptions about technology's influence, affirming that paper is here to stay. Paper will be the history that guides us forward in the twenty-first century.