A book is a set of sheets of paper, parchment, or similar materials that are fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is a leaf, and each side of a leaf is a page. Writing or images can be printed or drawn on a book’s pages. An electronic image that is formatted to resemble a book on a computer screen, smartphone or e-reader device is known as an electronic book or e-book.
The term “books” may also refer to a body of works of literature, or a main division of literature (e.g., children’s literature) . In library and information science, a book is called a monograph, to distinguish it from serial periodicals such as magazines, journals, or newspapers. In novels and sometimes other types of books (for example, biographies), a book may be divided into several large sections, also called books (Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, and so on). An avid reader or collector of books or a book lover is a bibliophile or colloquially, “bookworm”.
A shop where books are bought and sold is a bookshop or bookstore. Books are also sold in some department stores, drugstores and newspaper vendors. Books can also be borrowed from libraries. Google has estimated that as of 2010, approximately 130,000,000 distinct titles had been published.In some wealthier nations, the sale of printed books has decreased because of the use of e-books, though sales of e-books declined in the first half of 2015.
The word book comes from Old English “bōc”, which in turn comes from the Germanic root “*bōk-“, cognate to “beech”. Similarly, in Slavic languages (for example, Russian, Bulgarian, Macedonian) “буква” (bukva—”letter”) is cognate with “beech”. In Russian and in Serbian and Macedonian, the word “букварь” (bukvar’) or “буквар” (bukvar) refers specifically to a primary school textbook that helps young children master the techniques of reading and writing. It is thus conjectured that the earliest Indo-European writings may have been carved on beech wood. Similarly, the Latin word codex, meaning a book in the modern sense (bound and with separate leaves), originally meant “block of wood”.
When writing systems were created in ancient civilizations, a variety of objects, such as stone, clay, tree bark, metal sheets, might be used for writing. The study of such inscriptions forms a major part of history. The study of inscriptions is known as epigraphy. Alphabetic writing emerged in Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians would often write on papyrus, a plant grown along the Nile River. At first the words were not separated from each other (scriptura continua) and there was no punctuation. Texts were written from right to left, left to right, or even so that alternate lines read in opposite directions. The technical term for that last type of writing is ‘boustrophedon’, which means literally ‘ox-turning’ for the way a farmer drives an ox to plough his fields.
A tablet might be defined as a physically robust writing medium, suitable for casual transport and writing. See also stylus, the instrument used to write on a tablet. Clay tablets were flattened and mostly dry pieces of clay that could be easily carried, and impressed with a (possibly dampened) stylus. They were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age. Tablets were used by traders to record sales of goods such as bushels of grain and by rulers’ scribes to record tax or other levy collections.
Wax tablets were pieces of wood covered in a thick enough coating of wax to record the impressions of a stylus. They were the normal writing material in schools, in accounting, and for taking notes. They had the advantage of being reusable: the wax could be melted, and reformed into a blank. The custom of binding several wax tablets together (Roman pugillares) is a possible precursor for modern books (i.e. codex). The etymology of the word codex (block of wood) also suggests that it may have developed from wooden wax tablets.
Scrolls can be made from papyrus, a thick paper-like material made by weaving the stems of the papyrus plant, then pounding the woven sheet with a hammer-like tool until it is flattened. Papyrus was used for writing in Ancient Egypt, perhaps as early as the First Dynasty, although the first evidence is from the account books of King Nefertiti Kakai of the Fifth Dynasty (about 2400 BC). Papyrus sheets were glued together to form a scroll. Tree bark such as lime and other materials were also used.
According to Herodotus (History 5:58), the Phoenicians brought writing and papyrus to Greece around the 10th or 9th century BC. The Greek word for papyrus as writing material (biblion) and book (biblos) come from the Phoenician port town Byblos, through which papyrus was exported to Greece. From Greek we also derive the word tome (Greek: τόμος), which originally meant a slice or piece and from there began to denote “a roll of papyrus”. Tomus was used by the Latins with exactly the same meaning as volumen (see also below the explanation by Isidore of Seville).
Whether made from papyrus, parchment, or paper, scrolls were the dominant form of book in the Hellenistic, Roman, Chinese, Hebrew, and Macedonian cultures. The more modern codex book format form took over the Roman world by late antiquity, but the scroll format persisted much longer in Asia.
Isidore of Seville (died 636) explained the then-current relation between codex, book and scroll in his Etymologiae (VI.13): “A codex is composed of many books; a book is of one scroll. It is called codex by way of metaphor from the trunks (codex) of trees or vines, as if it were a wooden stock, because it contains in itself a multitude of books, as it were of branches.” Modern usage differs.
A codex (in modern usage) is the first information repository that modern people would recognize as a “book”: leaves of uniform size bound in some manner along one edge, and typically held between two covers made of some more robust material. The first written mention of the codex as a form of book is from Martial, in his Apophoreta CLXXXIV at the end of the first century, where he praises its compactness. However, the codex never gained much popularity in the pagan Hellenistic world, and only within the Christian community did it gain widespread use. This change happened gradually during the 3rd and 4th centuries, and the reasons for adopting the codex form of the book are several: the format is more economical, as both sides of the writing material can be used; and it is portable, searchable, and easy to conceal. A book is much easier to read, to find a page that you want, and to flip through. A scroll is more awkward to use. The Christian authors may also have wanted to distinguish their writings from the pagan and Judaic texts written on scrolls. In addition, some metal books were made, that required smaller pages of metal, instead of an impossibly long, unbending scroll of metal. A book can also be easily stored in more compact places, or side by side in a tight library or shelf space.
The fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century A.D. saw the decline of the culture of ancient Rome. Papyrus became difficult to obtain due to lack of contact with Egypt, and parchment, which had been used for centuries, became the main writing material. Parchment is a material made from processed animal skin and used—mainly in the past—for writing on. Parchment is most commonly made of calfskin, sheepskin, or goatskin. It was historically used for writing documents, notes, or the pages of a book. Parchment is limed, scraped and dried under tension. It is not tanned, and is thus different from leather. This makes it more suitable for writing on, but leaves it very reactive to changes in relative humidity and makes it revert to rawhide if overly wet.
Monasteries carried on the Latin writing tradition in the Western Roman Empire. Cassiodorus, in the monastery of Vivarium (established around 540), stressed the importance of copying texts. St. Benedict of Nursia, in his Rule of Saint Benedict (completed around the middle of the 6th century) later also promoted reading. The Rule of Saint Benedict (Ch. XLVIII), which set aside certain times for reading, greatly influenced the monastic culture of the Middle Ages and is one of the reasons why the clergy were the predominant readers of books. The tradition and style of the Roman Empire still dominated, but slowly the peculiar medieval book culture emerged.
Before the invention and adoption of the printing press, almost all books were copied by hand, which made books expensive and comparatively rare. Smaller monasteries usually had only a few dozen books, medium-sized perhaps a few hundred. By the 9th century, larger collections held around 500 volumes and even at the end of the Middle Ages, the papal library in Avignon and Paris library of the Sorbonne held only around 2,000 volumes.
The scriptorium of the monastery was usually located over the chapter house. Artificial light was forbidden for fear it may damage the manuscripts. There were five types of scribes:
Calligraphers, who dealt in fine book production
Copyists, who dealt with basic production and correspondence
Correctors, who collated and compared a finished book with the manuscript from which it had been produced
Illuminators, who painted illustrations
Rubricators, who painted in the red letters
The bookmaking process was long and laborious. The parchment had to be prepared, then the unbound pages were planned and ruled with a blunt tool or lead, after which the text was written by the scribe, who usually left blank areas for illustration and rubrication. Finally, the book was bound by the bookbinder.
Different types of ink were known in antiquity, usually prepared from soot and gum, and later also from gall nuts and iron vitriol. This gave writing a brownish black color, but black or brown were not the only colors used. There are texts written in red or even gold, and different colors were used for illumination. For very luxurious manuscripts the whole parchment was colored purple, and the text was written on it with gold or silver (for example, Codex Argenteus).
Irish monks introduced spacing between words in the 7th century. This facilitated reading, as these monks tended to be less familiar with Latin. However, the use of spaces between words did not become commonplace before the 12th century. It has been argued that the use of spacing between words shows the transition from semi-vocalized reading into silent reading.
The first books used parchment or vellum (calfskin) for the pages. The book covers were made of wood and covered with leather. Because dried parchment tends to assume the form it had before processing, the books were fitted with clasps or straps. During the later Middle Ages, when public libraries appeared, up to the 18th century, books were often chained to a bookshelf or a desk to prevent theft. These chained books are called libri catenati.
At first, books were copied mostly in monasteries, one at a time. With the rise of universities in the 13th century, the Manuscript culture of the time led to an increase in the demand for books, and a new system for copying books appeared. The books were divided into unbound leaves (pecia), which were lent out to different copyists, so the speed of book production was considerably increased. The system was maintained by secular stationers guilds, which produced both religious and non-religious material.
Judaism has kept the art of the scribe alive up to the present. According to Jewish tradition, the Torah scroll placed in a synagogue must be written by hand on parchment and a printed book would not do, though the congregation may use printed prayer books and printed copies of the Scriptures are used for study outside the synagogue. A sofer “scribe” is a highly respected member of any observant Jewish community.
People of various religious (Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Muslims) and ethnic backgrounds (Syriac, Coptic, Persian, Arab etc.) in the Middle East also produced and bound books in the Islamic Golden Age (mid 8th century to 1258), developing advanced techniques in Islamic calligraphy, miniatures and bookbinding. A number of cities in the medieval Islamic world had book production centers and book markets. Yaqubi (d. 897) says that in his time Baghdad had over a hundred booksellers. Book shops were often situated around the town’s principal mosque as in Marrakesh, Morocco, that has a street named Kutubiyyin or book sellers in English and the famous Koutoubia Mosque is named so because of its location in this street.
The medieval Muslim world also used a method of reproducing reliable copies of a book in large quantities known as check reading, in contrast to the traditional method of a single scribe producing only a single copy of a single manuscript. In the check reading method, only “authors could authorize copies, and this was done in public sessions in which the copyist read the copy aloud in the presence of the author, who then certified it as accurate.” With this check-reading system, “an author might produce a dozen or more copies from a single reading,” and with two or more readings, “more than one hundred copies of a single book could easily be produced.” By using as writing material the relatively cheap paper instead of parchment or papyrus the Muslims, in the words of Pedersen “accomplished a feat of crucial significance not only to the history of the Islamic book, but also to the whole world of books”.
Wood block printing
Movable type and incunabula
Early printed books, single sheets and images which were created before 1501 in Europe are known as incunables or incunabula. “A man born in 1453, the year of the fall of Constantinople, could look back from his fiftieth year on a lifetime in which about eight million books had been printed, more perhaps than all the scribes of Europe had produced since Constantine founded his city in A.D. 330.
19th century to 21st century
Steam-powered printing presses became popular in the early 19th century. These machines could print 1,100 sheets per hour, but workers could only set 2,000 letters per hour. Monotype and linotype typesetting machines were introduced in the late 19th century. They could set more than 6,000 letters per hour and an entire line of type at once. There have been numerous improvements in the printing press. As well, the conditions for freedom of the press have been improved through the gradual relaxation of restrictive censorship laws. See also intellectual property, public domain, copyright. In mid-20th century, European book production had risen to over 200,000 titles per year.
Throughout the 20th century, libraries have faced an ever-increasing rate of publishing, sometimes called an information explosion. The advent of electronic publishing and the internet means that much new information is not printed in paper books, but is made available online through a digital library, on CD-ROM, in the form of e-books or other online media. An on-line book is an e-book that is available online through the internet. Though many books are produced digitally, most digital versions are not available to the public, and there is no decline in the rate of paper publishing. There is an effort, however, to convert books that are in the public domain into a digital medium for unlimited redistribution and infinite availability. This effort is spearheaded by Project Gutenberg combined with Distributed Proofreaders. There have also been new developments in the process of publishing books. Technologies such as POD or “print on demand”, which make it possible to print as few as one book at a time, have made self-publishing (and vanity publishing) much easier and more affordable. On-demand publishing has allowed publishers, by avoiding the high costs of warehousing, to keep low-selling books in print rather than declaring them out of print.
The methods used for the printing and binding of books continued fundamentally unchanged from the 15th century into the early 20th century. While there was more mechanization, a book printer in 1900 had much in common with Gutenberg. Gutenberg’s invention was the use of movable metal types, assembled into words, lines, and pages and then printed by letterpress to create multiple copies. Modern paper books are printed on papers designed specifically for printed books. Traditionally, book papers are off-white or low-white papers (easier to read), are opaque to minimise the show-through of text from one side of the page to the other and are (usually) made to tighter caliper or thickness specifications, particularly for case-bound books. Different paper qualities are used depending on the type of book: Machine finished coated papers, woodfree uncoated papers, coated fine papers and special fine papers are common paper grades.
Today, the majority of books are printed by offset lithography. When a book is printed the pages are laid out on the plate so that after the printed sheet is folded the pages will be in the correct sequence. Books tend to be manufactured nowadays in a few standard sizes. The sizes of books are usually specified as “trim size”: the size of the page after the sheet has been folded and trimmed. The standard sizes result from sheet sizes (therefore machine sizes) which became popular 200 or 300 years ago, and have come to dominate the industry. British conventions in this regard prevail throughout the English-speaking world, except for the USA. The European book manufacturing industry works to a completely different set of standards.
Modern bound books are organized according to a particular format called the book’s layout. Although there is great variation in layout, modern books tend to adhere to as set of rules with regard to what the parts of the layout are and what their content usually includes. A basic layout will include a front cover, a back cover, and the book’s content which is called its body copy or content pages. The front cover often bears the book’s title (and subtitle, if any) and the name of its author or editor(s). The inside front cover page is usually left blank in both hardcover and paperback books. The next section, if present, is the book’s front matter, which includes all textual material after the front cover but not part of the book’s content— such things as a forward, a dedication, and a table of contents as well as publisher data such as the book’s edition or printing number and place of publication. Between the body copy and the back cover goes the end matter which would include any indices, sets of tables, or diagrams, glossaries, or lists of cited works (though an edited book with multiple contributing authors usually places cited works at the end of each authored chapter). The inside back cover page, like that inside the front cover, is usually blank. The back cover itself is the usual place for the book’s ISBN, and maybe a photograph of the author(s)/ editor(s), perhaps with a short introduction to them. Also here often appear plot summaries, barcodes, and excerpted reviews of the book.
Some books, particularly those with shorter runs (i.e. fewer copies) will be printed on sheet-fed offset presses, but most books are now printed on web presses, which are fed by a continuous roll of paper, and can consequently print more copies in a shorter time. As the production line circulates, a complete “book” is collected together in one stack, next to another, and another A web press carries out the folding itself, delivering bundles of signatures (sections) ready to go into the gathering line. Note that the pages of a book are printed two at a time, not as one complete book. Excess numbers are printed to make up for any spoilage due to make-readies or test pages to assure final print quality.
A make-ready is the preparatory work carried out by the pressmen to get the printing press up to the required quality of impression. Included in make-ready is the time taken to mount the plate onto the machine, clean up any mess from the previous job, and get the press up to speed. As soon as the pressman decides that the printing is correct, all the make-ready sheets will be discarded, and the press will start making books. Similar make readies take place in the folding and binding areas, each involving spoilage of paper.
After the signatures are folded and gathered, they move into the bindery. In the middle of last century there were still many trade binders – stand-alone binding companies which did no printing, specializing in binding alone. At that time, because of the dominance of letterpress printing, typesetting and printing took place in one location, and binding in a different factory. When type was all metal, a typical book’s worth of type would be bulky, fragile and heavy. The less it was moved in this condition the better: so printing would be carried out in the same location as the typesetting. Printed sheets on the other hand could easily be moved. Now, because of increasing computerization of preparing a book for the printer, the typesetting part of the job has flowed upstream, where it is done either by separately contracting companies working for the publisher, by the publishers themselves, or even by the authors. Mergers in the book manufacturing industry mean that it is now unusual to find a bindery which is not also involved in book printing (and vice versa).
If the book is a hardback its path through the bindery will involve more points of activity than if it is a paperback. Unsewn binding, is now increasingly common. The signatures of a book can also be held together by “Smyth sewing” using needles, “McCain sewing”, using drilled holes often used in schoolbook binding, or “notch binding”, where gashes about an inch long are made at intervals through the fold in the spine of each signature. The rest of the binding process is similar in all instances. Sewn and notch bound books can be bound as either hardbacks or paperbacks.
Recent developments in book manufacturing include the development of digital printing. Book pages are printed, in much the same way as an office copier works, using toner rather than ink. Each book is printed in one pass, not as separate signatures. Digital printing has permitted the manufacture of much smaller quantities than offset, in part because of the absence of make readies and of spoilage. One might think of a web press as printing quantities over 2000, quantities from 250 to 2000 being printed on sheet-fed presses, and digital presses doing quantities below 250. These numbers are of course only approximate and will vary from supplier to supplier, and from book to book depending on its characteristics. Digital printing has opened up the possibility of print-on-demand, where no books are printed until after an order is received from a customer.
In the 2000s, due to the rise in availability of affordable handheld computing devices, the opportunity to share texts through electronic means became a more appealing option for media publishers. Thus, the “e-book” was made. The term e-book is a contraction of “electronic book”; it refers to a book-length publication in digital form. An e-book is usually made available through the internet, but also on CD-ROM and other forms. E-Books may be read either via a computer or by means of a portable book display device known as an e-book reader, such as the Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo eReader, or the Amazon Kindle. These devices attempt to mimic the experience of reading a print book.
Book design is the art of incorporating the content, style, format, design, and sequence of the various components of a book into a coherent whole. In the words of Jan Tschichold, book design “though largely forgotten today, methods and rules upon which it is impossible to improve have been developed over centuries. To produce perfect books these rules have to be brought back to life and applied.” Richard Hendel describes book design as “an arcane subject” and refers to the need for a context to understand what that means. Many different creators can contribute to book design, including graphic designers, artists and editors.
The size of a modern book is based on the printing area of a common flatbed press. The pages of type were arranged and clamped in a frame, so that when printed on a sheet of paper the full size of the press, the pages would be right side up and in order when the sheet was folded, and the folded edges trimmed.
The most common book sizes are:
Quarto (4to): the sheet of paper is folded twice, forming four leaves (eight pages) approximately 11-13 inches (ca 30 cm) tall
Octavo (8vo): the most common size for current hardcover books. The sheet is folded three times into eight leaves (16 pages) up to 9 ¾” (ca 23 cm) tall.
DuoDecimo (12mo): a size between 8vo and 16mo, up to 7 ¾” (ca 18 cm) tall
Sextodecimo (16mo): the sheet is folded four times, forming 16 leaves (32 pages) up to 6 ¾” (ca 15 cm) tall
Sizes smaller than 16mo are:
24mo: up to 5 ¾” (ca 13 cm) tall.
32mo: up to 5″ (ca 12 cm) tall.
48mo: up to 4″ (ca 10 cm) tall.
64mo: up to 3″ (ca 8 cm) tall.
Small books can be called booklets.
Sizes larger than quarto are:
Folio: up to 15″ (ca 38 cm) tall.
Elephant Folio: up to 23″ (ca 58 cm) tall.
Atlas Folio: up to 25″ (ca 63 cm) tall.
Double Elephant Folio: up to 50″ (ca 127 cm) tall.
The largest extant medieval manuscript in the world is Codex Gigas 92 × 50 × 22 cm. The world’s largest book is made of stone and is in Kuthodaw Pagoda (Burma).
Many of the books published today are fiction, meaning that they are in-part or completely untrue. Historically, paper production was considered too expensive to be used for entertainment. An increase in global literacy and print technology led to the increased publication of books for the purpose of entertainment, and allegorical social commentary. Most fiction is additionally categorized by genre.
The novel is the most common form of fiction book. Novels are stories that typically feature a plot, setting, themes and characters. Stories and narrative are not restricted to any topic; a novel can be whimsical, serious or controversial. The novel has had a tremendous impact on entertainment and publishing markets. A novella is a term sometimes used for fiction prose typically between 17,500 and 40,000 words, and a novelette between 7,500 and 17,500. A short story may be any length up to 10,000 words, but these word lengths vary.
Comic books or graphic novels are books in which the story is illustrated. The characters and narrators use speech or thought bubbles to express verbal language.
Students typically store and carry textbooks and schoolbooks for study purposes. Elementary school pupils often use workbooks, which are published with spaces or blanks to be filled by them for study or homework. In US higher education, it is common for a student to take an exam using a blue book.
Books for recording periodic entries by the user, such as daily information about a journey, are called logbooks or simply logs. A similar book for writing the owner’s daily private personal events, information, and ideas is called a diary or personal journal.
Businesses use accounting books such as journals and ledgers to record financial data in a practice called bookkeeping.
There are several other types of books which are not commonly found under this system. Albums are books for holding a group of items belonging to a particular theme, such as a set of photographs, card collections, and memorabilia. One common example is stamp albums, which are used by many hobbyists to protect and organize their collections of postage stamps. Such albums are often made using removable plastic pages held inside in a ringed binder or other similar holder. Picture books are books for children with pictures on every page and less text (or even no text).
Hymnals are books with collections of musical hymns that can typically be found in churches. Prayerbooks or missals are books that contain written prayers and are commonly carried by monks, nuns, and other devoted followers or clergy.
By physical format
Publishing is a process for producing pre-printed books, magazines, and newspapers for the reader/user to buy.
Publishers may produce low-cost, pre-publication copies known as galleys or ‘bound proofs’ for promotional purposes, such as generating reviews in advance of publication. Galleys are usually made as cheaply as possible, since they are not intended for sale.
Private or personal libraries made up of non-fiction and fiction books, (as opposed to the state or institutional records kept in archives) first appeared in classical Greece. In the ancient world, the maintaining of a library was usually (but not exclusively) the privilege of a wealthy individual. These libraries could have been either private or public, i.e. for people who were interested in using them. The difference from a modern public library lies in the fact that they were usually not funded from public sources. It is estimated that in the city of Rome at the end of the 3rd century there were around 30 public libraries. Public libraries also existed in other cities of the ancient Mediterranean region (for example, Library of Alexandria). Later, in the Middle Ages, monasteries and universities had also libraries that could be accessible to general public. Typically not the whole collection was available to public, the books could not be borrowed and often were chained to reading stands to prevent theft.
The beginning of modern public library begins around 15th century when individuals started to donate books to towns. The growth of a public library system in the United States started in the late 19th century and was much helped by donations from Andrew Carnegie. This reflected classes in a society: The poor or the middle class had to access most books through a public library or by other means while the rich could afford to have a private library built in their homes. In the United States the Boston Public Library 1852 Report of the Trustees established the justification for the public library as a tax-supported institution intended to extend educational opportunity and provide for general culture.
The advent of paperback books in the 20th century led to an explosion of popular publishing. Paperback books made owning books affordable for many people. Paperback books often included works from genres that had previously been published mostly in pulp magazines. As a result of the low cost of such books and the spread of bookstores filled with them (in addition to the creation of a smaller market of extremely cheap used paperbacks) owning a private library ceased to be a status symbol for the rich.
In library and booksellers’ catalogues, it is common to include an abbreviation such as “Crown 8vo” to indicate the paper size from which the book is made.
When rows of books are lined on a book holder, bookends are sometimes needed to keep them from slanting.