The Book Trade and the Industrial Revolution
The eighteenth century had witnessed an unprecedented rate of growth in demand for the printed word, and had seen the beginnings of the final stages of the transformation of Britain into a print-dependent society. The initial impact of print in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries had been on the cultural elites already accustomed to the use of the written word. Although the vastly greater number of books, and the much lower cost of buying them, were of great significance, the real importance of the printed word was essentially for a small group. The Reformation broadened this group, and in Britain the political revolutions of the seventeenth century expanded it yet further, but the mass impact of the printed word still lay in the future.