The market for books was still small, but literacy had spread beyond the clergy and had reached the emerging middle classes.The church, the state, universities, reformers, and radicals were all quick to use the press.The history of publishing is characterized by a close interplay of technical innovation and social change, each promoting the other.Publishing as it is known today depends on a series of three major inventions—writing, paper, and printing—and one crucial social development—the spread of literacy.In less than 50 years it had been carried through most of Europe, largely by German printers.Printing in Europe is inseparable from the Reformation.
Scripts of various kinds came to be used throughout most of the ancient world for proclamations, correspondence, transactions, and records; but book production was confined largely to religious centres of learning, as it would be again later in medieval Europe.
The dissemination of published material via electronic media is treated in information processing.
For a discussion of reference-book publishing, see the articles encyclopaedia; dictionary.
The mechanization of printing in the 19th century and its further development in the 20th, which went hand in hand with increasing literacy and rising standards of education, finally brought the printed word to its powerful position as a means of influencing minds and, hence, societies.
The functions peculiar to the publisher— selecting, editing, and designing the material; arranging its production and distribution; and bearing the financial risk or the responsibility for the whole operation—often merged in the past with those of the author, the printer, or the bookseller.
History of publishing, an account of the selection, preparation, and marketing of printed matter from its origins in ancient times to the present.