Print culture in ancient China
Frog in a Well has an interesting article about print culture and publishing in historic China:
Happily, China had a thriving printing culture for a good thousand years before the introduction of western-style printing machinery in the late 19th century created a modern publishing industry, so we know something about this. The Chinese reluctance to adopt movable type is even now sometimes presented as a puzzling example of the anti-technological bias of those silly people, but actually there was no great need for it.
Woodblock printing had already begun revolutionizing Chinese culture by at least the Song dynasty, and movable type did not add much. One of the big advantages of woodblock printing was that it cheaper and required less capital. To print a book with movable type need a set of type with many copies of each letter (expensive in the West, more so in China) and literate typesetters. Since the type is broken up up after printing a page you need to have the capital to buy enough paper (usually a major expense) and to wait for the things to sell or to swallow the loss if they don’t. With Chinese block printing you needed a literate author to write the book, but then you could paste the paper on a woodblock and have an illiterate (and cheap) carver cut it out.
Storing all the woodblocks could be a pain, but since you did not break them up you could print as many copies as you needed (print on demand!) and then keep the blocks. At least some literati would leave their woodblocks in their wills. (I know Yuan Mei did, and I would guess others did too.) There was far less need for the work publishers do and the capital they provide.
See the full article entitled China, where the future is already the past.