Revolutions of Print – COMM12022

When Gutenberg invented the printing press he changed the lives of people in Europe and eventually all over the world. Before the invention of the printing press all bookmaking entailed copying all the words and illustrations by hand. The introduction of print was associated with a massive increase in the amount of text produced, in the speed with which texts circulated, and in the proportion of the population that could read them (Poe 2011, p. 105).


Image 1: A printer demonstrates a Gutenberg press Source: Live Science (2014)

Gutenberg is responsible for shaping the nature of society and its institutions, and made mass distribution of information possible (Stacy, R 2008). When the written word partially escaped from the elite’s grasp with the spread of print and literacy, they could no longer monopolize writing as they had for almost 500 years (Poe 2011, p. 102). Gutenberg made it possible for literature to become readily available to people, no matter what their social status was. Newspapers soon emerged which meant people could read and increase their knowledge more easily now, whereas in the past it was common for people to be quite uneducated. The first printed proto-newspapers appeared in the sixteenth century. They included reports on commodity and currency prices (Poe 2011, p. 109).

Gutenberg’s invention of printing had many substantial immediate, medium and long-term effects on society (Moodie 2014, p. 451). Since the emergence of the Internet, the traditional world of print media is becoming outdated. While the technologies and channels for the distribution of information have developed significantly since the Gutenberg press, the basic structure of the Gutenberg principle has not: it still costs lots of money to distribute information to a mass audience (Stacy, R 2008).


Moodie, G 2014, ‘Gutenberg’s effects on universities’, History of Education, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 450-467.

Poe, MT 2011, A History of Communications: Media and Society from the Evolution of Speech to the Internet, Cambridge University Press, New York.

Stacy, R 2008, Gutenberg and the social media revolution: an investigation of the world where it costs nothing to distribute information, viewed 24 April 2016,


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