The impacts of the Printing Press are the Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment.
In the essay below, Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, presents a thoughtful and I think very important conclusion. As she puts it:
The impact of printing, experienced first by literate groups in early modern Europe, changed the character of the Italian Renaissance and ought to be considered among the causes of both the Protestant Reformation and the rise of modern science.
Here it is the entire essay – The Emergence of Print Culture in the West.
Here is Wikipedia’s take on her I think.
Eisenstein’s best-known work is The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, a two-volume, 750-page exploration of the effects of movable type printing on the literate elite of post-Gutenberg Western Europe. In this work she focuses on the printing press’s functions of dissemination, standardization, and preservation and the way these functions aided the progress of the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution. Eisenstein’s work brought historical method, rigor, and clarity to earlier ideas of Marshall McLuhan and others, about the general social effects of such media transitions.
This work provoked debate in the academic community from the moment it was published and is still inspiring conversation and new research today. Her work also influenced later thinking about the subsequent development of digital media. Her work on the transition from manuscript to print influenced thought about new transitions of print text to digital formats, including multimedia and new ideas about the definition of text.
The Unacknowledged Revolution
Eisenstein’s book The Printing Press as an Agent of Change lays out her thoughts on the “Unacknowledged Revolution,” her name for the revolution that occurred after the invention of print. Print media allowed the general public to have access to books and knowledge that had not been available to them before; this led to the growth of public knowledge and individual thought. The ability to formulate thought on one’s own thoughts became reality with the popularity of the printing press. Print also “standardized and preserved knowledge which had been much more fluid in the age of oral manuscript circulation” (Briggs & Burke(2002); A Social History of the Media). Eisenstein recognizes this period of time to be very important in the development of mankind; however, she feels that it is often overlooked, thus, the ‘unacknowledged revolution’.