Reading revolution

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This article is about literacy. For the football team, see FC Reading Revolution.

Reading Revolution is a perceived increase in the amount of books read by ordinary individuals which has had revolutionary consequences.

Throughout history, the Reading Revolution has occurred in several waves.


The major revolutions that occurred prior to the invention of printing include:[1]

  • The invention of the alphabet
  • The change from the scroll to the codex
  • The change from papyrus to parchment to paper

Invention of Printing Press[edit]

The first Reading Revolution that occurred, occurred as a result of the invention and spread of the Printing Press.

Scholars who have claimed that Printing led to the first Reading Revolution include Marshall McLuhan, Rolf Engelsing and Walter Ong.[2]

Rolf Engelsing has argued for the existence of a Reading Revolution. Until 1750, reading was done "intensively: people tended to own a small number of books and read them repeatedly, often to small audience. After 1750, people began to read "extensively", finding as many books as they could, increasingly reading them alone.[3] On the other hand, as Jonathan Israel writes, Gabriel Naudé was already campaigning for the "universal" library in the mid-17th century. And if this was an ideal only realistic for state institutions and the very wealthy (and indeed, an ideal that was seldom achieved), there are records for extremely large private and state-run libraries throughout Europe in the 17th and 18th-centuries.[4]

Digital Revolution[edit]

The second revolution came with the invention of ebooks and ereaders. The British newspaper The Guardian in particular argues that:[5]

It is clear that the revolution in ebooks is only just beginning. The interesting thing is that the product itself – the book – is not threatened, only the way it is read. It is pretty clear that more ebooks will be read in future as out-of-copyright ones are reprinted.

The Christian Science Monitor has claimed that:[6]

Some 21 percent of adults have read an e-book in the past year, according to a new study by the Pew Internet Project. What’s more, readers of e-books read an average of 10 books more per year than readers of print books.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ from Outram, 19. See Rolf Engelsing, "Die Perioden der Lesergeschichte in der Neuzeit. Das statische Ausmass und die soziokulturelle Bedeutung der Lektüre", Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens, 10 (1969), cols. 944–1002 and Der Bürger als Leser: Lesergeschichte in Deutschland, 1500–1800 (Stuttgart, 1974).
  4. ^ Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650–1750 (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) 120.
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ [4]

External links[edit]