What Is a Book?

A book is a work of fiction or nonfiction written and published on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers. It may be a reference work, such as a dictionary, encyclopedia, or almanac. It may also be a work of art, such as an artist’s book. Books can be used as sources for literary analysis and discussion, such as in a book club. They can also be used as tools for learning, such as a textbook or study guide.

The term book is often confused with novel. A novel is a fictional work designed to captivate and entertain readers through a variety of poetic mechanisms. A novel is a self-contained composition of considerable length, often segmented into chapters for ease of assimilation and reference. A novelist’s primary concern is to create an entertaining and engaging story, which he or she then structures to achieve a specific scope, purpose and style.

Many great novels possess a distinct and captivating style that can set them apart from their average, run-of-the-mill counterparts. A great book’s style arises from the author’s ability to leverage the poetry of language and the decisions he or she makes in constructing the narrative. Often, it is also the result of an author’s practice and investment of time.

For example, renowned English physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking’s bestselling The Grand Design is a book that is both entertaining and enlightening. In this landmark work, Hawking is able to take complex and confusing elements of the universe (such as black holes and quarks) and make them accessible to a general audience.

Although some authors may be tempted to rush into the publishing process, it is critical to carefully consider the scope, purpose and style of the book in which they are interested before beginning the process of writing. An author should also carefully consider the intended audience, the level of accessibility desired and accepted editorial standards. A well-designed book should include a preface, foreword, glossary, index and appendix.

Once a manuscript is finished and all necessary editorial elements have been considered, the book production process can begin. This process includes type-setting, in which the actual text is formatted into the appropriate font style and size for the final product. Then, the pages are printed and glued together along with a cover to produce the finished book.

After the book is finished, it must be categorized in a library system using codes called call numbers to identify and locate each copy on shelves. Additionally, most commercial publishers in industrialized countries assign an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) to each copy of a publication. This ISBN identifies the book in a database and enables the reader to search for and locate it. Additionally, a barcode label known as a Universal Product Code (UPC) is sometimes assigned to books sold in the United States and Canada. In other nations, barcodes are not used for book identification. Books that are produced by the government do not require an ISBN.