What Is a Book?



A book is a medium for recording and conveying information, usually with text. Books are made of printed or handwritten pages fastened together, either in a single volume or in multiple volumes, and protected by covers. A book has many uses in society and is a cultural artifact.

The word “book” is often used to refer to printed books alone, but the term actually applies to a wide range of portable text-bearing objects in different parts of the world and throughout history. The ancient Babylonian clay tablets, the Egyptian papyrus rolls, the medieval vellum or parchment codex, and the modern paper-bound printed-paper codex are all considered books by scholars. During their long histories, books have developed many features, but one consistent characteristic is that they are designed for individualized use.

A book’s design includes the overall scope and purpose, the intended approach to the subject matter, the format and layout of individual chapters, and the use of illustrations, among other aspects. These factors influence whether a manuscript is suitable to become a book. When considering these elements, the author, with the help of an editor and/or agent, must also consider what audience is most likely to be interested in a given subject, as well as established editorial standards and formats.

An important consideration for publishers is how a book will be classified. Classification is the process of arranging books in a systematic way so that they can be easily found, read and understood by others. Two of the most widely known classification systems are the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress Classification. Both have a number of limitations, including that they are biased towards subjects which were well represented in US libraries at the time they were developed, and that they cannot handle new subjects like computing or subjects relating to other cultures.

Once a book has been published it must be stored and managed. Books are often grouped into categories based on their subject or style, and can be searched for using catalogues or databases. Various types of metadata are also created to describe a book, including the title, authors, publisher, publication date, and subject category. This information can be retrieved and manipulated by a variety of tools, including software programs, databases, and the web.

Although the definition of a book has changed over time, it is still considered an essential part of any library or collection. The development of new technologies, however, has posed challenges for the future of books and reading. In a time when many people are choosing to read on their smartphones or tablet computers, the role of the book is being challenged in ways that have not been seen in centuries. Nevertheless, books are still very popular with both students and adults, and the reading experience remains unique. The question is whether this will last. Is the modern book becoming too similar to other forms of entertainment and thereby losing its uniqueness?