Developments In The Print And Publishing Sectors

03 August, 2022

According to Statista, as of the end of 2021, worldwide newspaper circulation revenue stands at USD 52.14 billion, while the global book publishing revenue was about $122 billion.

The technologies that have transformed the print and publishing sectors come in various shades and cover the advancement in digital media, the internet, data transmission, storage, distribution and printing. These technologies have been developing over the years, decades and centuries, thanks to many studious tech-driven men and women. A summary of techs is discussed in this post.

Electronic Storage and the Internet

Data storage is integral to the print and publishing sectors. In the late 20th century, computers and related innovations such as the CD-ROM and the Internet allowed publishing to expand, making texts available online and on disk and fostering multimedia presentations and interactive uses.

 Data storage development has come a long way and covers punch cards, vacuum tubes for Random Access Memory, and magnetic disk storage (some may remember floppy disks). Research on optical discs led to CDs (Compact Discs), DVDs (Digital Video Recordings), and Blu-Ray. There is a portable storage device (flash drives) that plugs into computers via USB. We also have solid state drives that stores data on interlinked flash memory chips.

More recently, the internet has enabled the cloud data storage service, offering its user an unlimited amount of data storage and accessibility from anywhere, at any time. This service will play a vital role in digital publishing and printing. Encryption and authentication are related to technology due to security concerns. You can learn more from ‘A Brief History of Data Storage by Keith D. Foote (2017)’.

Printing Press Evolution

The printing sector has been through many developmental stages since the 6th century, as summarised below.

  1. Woodblock printing covered the use of wooden matrices that were engraved, inked and pressed onto a sheet of paper.
  2. Movable-type printing: The centrepiece of his technique was the punch, a steel parallelepiped whose head was engraved in relief, and back to front, with a character: a number, letter or punctuation mark.
  3. The rotary press: The system was initially hand-fed with single sheets and later fed by a paper roll: the images to be printed were curved around rotating cylinders. Becoming the first press suitable for large print runs.
  4. Offset printing: An indirect method based on a simple chemical phenomenon (the repulsion between oil and water). Benefits include very sharp, clean images and high-quality printing on any paper.
  5. The Linotype machine: A typesetting machine composes lines of text by pressing keys on a keyboard like a typewriter. Thomas Edison called the linotype machine “the eighth wonder of the world”.
  6. The laser printer: The content to be printed is generated by electronic processes and printed directly onto the sheet of paper. Thereby optimising print speed, quantity per minute and accessibility to individuals and households.
  7. 3D printing: A method that allows the creation of solid objects from 3D model software, e.g. AutoCAD, by adding overlapping layers of a photosensitive liquid polymer struck by UV light.
  8. Various 3D printing technologies now exist distinguished by the type of layer assembly, e.g. use materials that are melted by heat and liquid materials that are hardened or laminated and bound together.

To learn more about the history of printing tech, refer to ‘A brief history of printing. From the 15th century to today, by Pixar Printing Blog (2018).’

Digital publishing

With tech advances in the book industry, not only are digital books, often known as e-books, increasingly popular but so are audiobooks. It is predicted the most significant source of revenue will come from e-books, followed by online newspapers and magazines. In 2012, Amazon began selling more digital books than physical ones. The print has given way to digital, and the publishing industry’s future is online.


The e-book combines the storage, search capabilities, and adaptability of a computer with the simulated page format of a traditional book. By 2000, thousands of books were being digitised, to be read online, downloaded, printed out by the reader, or printed on demand by the publisher. Digital books led to innovations in software for reading e-books on computers, and electronic tablets, which can store hundreds of publications and smartphones. E-books have contributed to the ease of self-publishing and distribution of indie books for download.


According to Statista, although printed books remain the most favourable option for consumers, audiobooks and e-books are now gaining ground. Both are predicted to see a promising CAGR in the next few years. Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry, and estimates from analysts suggest that the global audiobook market could be worth more than ten billion U.S. dollars within the next five to ten years.


By the beginning of the 21st century, several independent online print-on-demand (or publish-on-demand) web companies had been created. An individual can print and bind a book on-demand in a retail store with the appropriate equipment in a few minutes.


IBM defines blockchain as a shared, immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network. Publishing and copyrights management could or are already benefiting from this technology; here are some examples:

  • The easy access to and copying of electronically published material raised copyright issues. This leads to the need for publishers and authors to protect their copyright. Blockchain can protect authors’ copyright through a system that recognises the writer’s work so the authorship can be managed and ensures that the original creators get the credits and compensation for their work.
  • Managing publishing and copyrights agreement between the publisher and author. Provision of a smart contract that an author can sign electronically.
  • The wide availability of computer-driven desktop-publishing technology to small presses and individuals gave impetus to producing many self-published books. Blockchain can facilitate content distribution, monetisation and micropayment for self-publishers with transparency and avoiding third parties.
  • Blockchain application to manage the protection, distribution and monetisation of millions of journals published globally.


Further credit: Article about Publishing industry by The Free Dictionary Encyclopedia (2020)

Image Credit: Printing house photo created by senivpetro –

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