What Is a Book?

A book is a medium for conveying textual information. Books may contain written, illustrated or graphic information, as well as sound recordings and music. Books are a common form of communication and education, and they can be found in almost any culture around the world. Books are also used as artistic artifacts, and can be read aloud to spark social or academic discussion, such as in a book club. Books can be analyzed and evaluated by professional writers or critics, as in a book review or essay, and can serve as the basis for a creative project like a novel or poem.

A book might be a physical object, made of paper, cloth or leather, or it might be a digital file that is readable on a computer screen or e-reader. Books might be published by an established publisher, but new developments such as print-on-demand technology are making self-publishing easier and more affordable.

The main part of a book, which contains the actual text, is called the body. Most books have front matter and back matter, which are the bits that sandwich the body and make it look put-together and official. Front matter includes the title page, copyright page and any other material that makes up the beginning of the book, while back matter typically consists of an index and the acknowledgments page.

The title page usually gives a book’s name, author and publisher, and it might give a short biography or history of the authors and/or book itself. It might also include the ISBN (International Standard Book Number), which is a unique number that identifies a book on the shelves of bookstores. The ISBN is used by distributors to track books, and it is often printed on the spine of hardback or softcover books.

An acknowledgment page is a section that lists everyone who contributed to the creation of a book, including the author’s agent and editor(s), close friends and family, and mentors. The page typically goes right after the title and copyright pages, but it might appear on its own or be included as a part of the front matter if the book has a dust jacket.

A bibliography, which provides a list of sources that were used to create the book, might be included as part of the back matter or as a separate appendix. A glossary, which is a list of terms or phrases that appear in the book, and which are defined in the body of the book by superscript letters, might also be included in the back matter. This might include words and expressions that are unusual or not common, or it might be used in works of fiction to add a sense of depth to the story. The glossary is typically arranged in alphabetical order.