What is a Book?

A book is a collection of pages (often with text, but sometimes images) fastened together and wrapped inside a cover of stronger paper or cardboard. Books have been used for centuries as a form of written information and communication, as well as for entertainment and education. Modern printing technology has made the book an industrial product with structures of production and distribution.

Despite the rise of e-readers, tablet computers and social media, printed books remain a popular medium for learning and leisure reading. Books are commonly used as reference sources for research and are studied in schools and universities. They can also be evaluated and discussed as a source of literary criticism, such as in a book review or book club.

The physical support for extended compositions in antiquity was the codex, a form of book consisting of separate leaves of papyrus, parchment or vellum, fastened to each other with a binding and protected by a cover. The book was the successor to the scroll, which was less convenient for carrying and reading. A book may also refer to a set of rules or regulations.

There are many different kinds of books, from the almanac, which is a general reference book with lists of data and information about a wide range of topics to the dictionary, an encyclopedia or a book that provides more in-depth articles on a specific topic. Books that give instructions on how to do something or use equipment are called manuals. Students often store and carry textbooks or schoolbooks, which include spaces or blanks to be filled in for study or homework purposes.

Books can be classified using a system of cataloguing, which determines the location of a book in a library. The two most famous systems are the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress Classification. However, both of these have limitations because they are based on subjects that were well represented in the libraries that developed them and so are not good at handling new or specialized subject areas.

Today most books are printed by offset lithography. They are produced in a number of standard sizes, which reflect sheet sizes and therefore machine sizes that developed 200 or 300 years ago. These sizes are also known as trim size. Smaller quantities are now being printed digitally, which eliminates the need for make readies and spoilage of sheets.

Some books are created as works of art, such as the book made out of concrete by artist Jason Moran. Other books are intended to stimulate discussion and debate, such as political manifestos or satires, such as Animal Farm by George Orwell.

A list of ‘books to read before you die’ usually includes classics such as Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, which both showcase imagination at its best while also asking life changing questions about our own existence. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an inspirational story of courage, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bront can be found on many lists, as it portrays a strong female character fighting against a repressive society.