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Not surprisingly, every kind of attempt was made to control and regulate such a “dangerous” new mode of communication.
Freedom of the press was pursued and attacked for the next three centuries; but by the end of the 18th century a large measure of freedom had been won in western Europe and North America, and a wide range of printed matter was in circulation.
With increasing specialization, however, publishing became, certainly by the 19th century, an increasingly distinct occupation.
Most modern Western publishers purchase printing services in the open market, solicit manuscripts from authors, and distribute their wares to purchasers through shops, mail order, or direct sales.
Published matter falls into two main categories, periodical and nonperiodical; publications that appear at more or less regular intervals and are members of a series and those that appear on single occasions (except for reissues of essentially the same material).
Of the nonperiodical publications, books constitute by far the largest class; they are also, in one form or another, the oldest of all types of publication and go back to the earliest civilizations.
The activity has grown from small beginnings into a vast and complex industry responsible for the dissemination of all manner of cultural material; its impact upon civilization is impossible to calculate.For statistical purposes, however, the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization defines a book as “a non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 pages excluding covers.” Periodical publications may be further divided into two main classes, magazines.Though the boundary between them is not sharp—there are magazines devoted to news, and many newspapers have magazine features—their differences of format, tempo, and function are sufficiently marked: the newspaper (daily or weekly) usually has large, loose pages, a high degree of immediacy, and miscellaneous contents; whereas the magazine (weekly, monthly, or quarterly) has smaller pages, is usually fastened together and sometimes bound, and is less urgent in tone and more specialized in content.Only in Hellenistic Greece, in Rome, and in China, where there were essentially nontheocratic societies, does there seem to have been any publishing in the modern sense—Arabs but not, it seems, printing.
The reason may well lie in Arab insistence on hand copying of the Qurʾān (Arabic printing of the Qurʾān does not appear to have been officially sanctioned until 1825).
The invention of printing in Europe is usually attributed to Johannes Gutenberg in Germany about 1440–50, although block printing had been carried out from about 1400.