What Is a Book?

A book is a literary artifact that uses writing or other systems of visual symbols to convey meaning and is published for tangible circulation. Although the material and structural form of books has varied throughout history, these objects have consistently tended towards the twin functions of portability and permanence, attending the dissemination of knowledge and information in all literate societies. Books have also served as the basis of many other forms of communication, including the Babylonian clay tablets, Egyptian papyrus rolls, medieval vellum or parchment codexes, printed paper codes and microfilms.

Books are typically made up of individual sheets, or pages, arranged in a binding and protected by a cover. The earliest books were created by hand, but since the 19th century, mechanized printing has produced the vast numbers of books available in modern times. In this time of the Internet and mobile devices, the book has also experienced a revival as a digital platform.

The book can be used to convey a variety of ideas, from scientific concepts like biology or mathematics to fictional narratives such as novels or short stories. A book can even be used to record personal experiences or events, like a diary or journal. A book can also be used as an artistic artifact, as is often the case with books of fiction or nonfiction that have a particular theme or message.

A book can be created for a variety of reasons, and the content and format may differ depending on its purpose and intended audience. Some books are intended for general use while others are more specialized and intended for a specific audience, such as a textbook or a cookbook. Books are also used as a tool to teach, such as in schools and universities, or for self-help purposes, such as in health or exercise books.

One of the most popular types of books is a novel. These texts are often written in a narrative style that involves character development, plot and a resolution to the conflict presented by the main characters. A number of different genres of novels exist, ranging from historical to contemporary. Some books are considered classics, such as Jane Eyre, which features a strong and empathetic female protagonist who struggles to find her place in a repressive Victorian society. Other novels, such as Animal Farm, have a more political bent and examine the dangers of insurrection.

Some books contain an epilogue or afterword, which can serve as a conclusion or supplemental form of closure for the reader. The epilogue can also be an opportunity for the author to thank those who helped the book come to fruition.

Books are generally classified by a library classification system, with codes known as call numbers relating them to the catalogue and determining their location on shelves. In large or public libraries, books are often grouped together by subject, and may be catalogued according to their physical form, such as hardcover, softcover or electronic media. This process has been accelerated by new technology, such as print-on-demand publishing, where books are printed as they are ordered.