The Rise of the Mass Media

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The Rise of the Mass Media
Industrial societies not only produce and distribute goods and services, they also produce and distribute information and entertainment. Industrialization not only led to mass production, it also created mass media. In this part of the chapter we will examine the growth of these media and situ¬ate this within the development of a capitalist industrial society. The Print Revolution

The earliest known book was printed in China in the year 868 and metal type was in use in Korea at the beginning of the fifteenth century, but it was in Germany around the year 1450 that a printing press using movable metal type was invented. Capitalism turned printing from an invention into an industry. Right from the start, book printing and publishing were organized on capitalist lines. The biggest sixteenth-century printer, Plantin of Antwerp, had twenty-four printing presses and employed more than a hundred workers. Only a small fraction of the population was liter¬ate, but the production of books grew at an extraordinary speed. By 1500 some 20 million volumes had already been printed (Febvre and Martin 1976). The immediate effect of printing was to increase the circulation of works that were already popular in a hand¬written form, while less popular works went out of cir¬culation. Publishers were interested only in books that would sell fairly quickly in sufficient numbers to cover the costs of production and make a profit. Thus, while printing enormously increased access to books by making cheap, high-volume production possible, it also reduced choice. The great cultural impact of printing was that it facili¬tated the growth of national languages. Most early books were printed in Latin, the language of educated people, but the market for Latin was limited, and in its pursuit of larger markets the book trade soon produced translations into the national languages emerging at this time. Printing indeed played a key role in standardizing and stabilizing...
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