As Elizabeth Eisenstein points out in her study of Printing as an Agent of Social Change , the effect of printing on culture is generally ignored or considered to be so broad and self-evident that it is rarely studied, except by authors such as Marshall Macluhan, who she considers irresponsible. (see electronic media

For Eisenstein, the "idea" of progress must be understood in the context of its possibility through the technologies of print. She characterizes manuscript culture as dominated by textual drift, migrating manuscripts, localizedchronologies, and multiform maps, in which errors accumulute and there is no possibility of a definitive text. Manuscript culture is to a great extent an effort at preservation, supplemented by the memory arts, by cadence, rhythm, images and symbols. The culture which assumes the "loss" of ancient wisdom is at least in part a direct result of the vicissitudes of manuscripts. 

Print culture, on the other hand, permits the edition of "definitive" texts, protected from loss through the printing of multiple examplars. In fields of knowledge such as mapmaking, printing allows for a " feedback" process in which discrepencies are noted and incorporated into subsequent editions. As Febvre and Martin put it, the printed book kept a permanent form, capable of virtually infinite reproduction, temporally and spatially. It was no longer subject to the individualizing and " unconsciously modernizing" habits of monastic scribes. 

In oral cultures, knowledge, once aquired, had to be constantly repeated or it would be lost. Fixed, formulaic thought patterns were essential for wisdom and effective administration. (Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy, p.24) The rhythms of oral verse are the priveleged mechanisms of recall because rhythm enlists the cooperation of a whole series bodily motor reflexes in the work of remembrance. (see incorporating practices ) "The oral poet learns his songs orally, composes them orally, and transmits them orally to others." (A. B. Lord) Jack Goody characterizes the capacities of oral cultures to absorb innovations as "now or never." There is no chance that a discovery will be acclaimed at a later date. Unless an innovation is absorbed immediately into the practices of oral transmission, there is no store for subsequent recall. (The Domestication of the Savage Mind, p. 14) A continuing critical tradition can flourish through writing because sceptical thought can accumulate, can be communicated accross space and time, and be made available for men to contemplate in privacy as well as to hear in performance.

The " serialtime of science depends at least in part on the advent of printing as a material base. For Benedict Anderson, the book was, in a rather special sense, the first modern-style mass-produced industrial commodity. (Imagined Communities, p.34) It is a distinct, self-contained object, exactly reproducible on a large scale. Its most "extreme" form is the newspaper, sold on a colossal scale, but of ephemeral popularity -- the "one-day best seller". Anderson calls sees the rapid rise of printing technology as the inauguration of "print capitalism" -- of print as commodity as the key to the generation of wholly new ideas of simultaneity. 

to read: Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin The Coming of the Book (L'Apparition du Livre )