A book, in its essence, is a collection of pages arranged to facilitate both portability and ease of reading. The most recognizable contemporary form that a book takes is the codex. This format consists of rectangular paper pages bound together on one side, fortified with a robust cover and spine to ensure it stays open when being read.
However, defining a book merely by its physical form would be restrictive. The contents within many books are often referred to as novels, regardless of their actual genre or format. For example, we often categorize diverse compositions that span considerable lengths as novels. The renowned works of Aristotle, the distinct sections found in the Bible, or the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead are referred to as novels, irrespective of their physical manifestation.
Interestingly, there are extended literary compositions that are divided into shorter segments, which do not necessarily mirror the physically bound units we commonly associate with books. This custom traces its origins back to the ancient scroll formats, where a single lengthy work required multiple scrolls for completion. In modern times, when exceptionally long works in the codex format necessitate division due to their physical constraints, we typically refer to each segment as a ‘volume’.
With technological advancements, books have also embraced the digital realm. E-books have become increasingly prevalent, allowing readers to carry vast libraries in the palms of their hands, accessible on e-readers, tablets, or even smartphones.
It’s worth noting that in 1964, a UNESCO conference endeavored to define a book (for library purposes) as “a non-periodical printed publication of at least forty-nine pages, excluding cover pages.” In the context of a codex book, each individual sheet is referred to as a leaf, and both sides of this leaf are considered distinct pages. These pages can be adorned with writings or illustrations, enhancing the content within.
The academic discipline of library and information science classifies a book that spans several volumes (and isn’t periodic like journals or newspapers) as a monograph. Individuals with a deep appreciation or collection of books are known as bibliophiles or, in informal parlance, “bookworms”. Physical establishments that deal in the sale of books are called bookshops or bookstores. However, in the modern age, books are available not only in brick-and-mortar stores but also on numerous online platforms.
Libraries play a crucial role in fostering a culture of reading. They offer books for borrowing, ensuring that knowledge isn’t just limited to those who can afford to buy books. It’s intriguing to note that Google has projected that, as of 2010, there were approximately 130 million unique titles that had been published globally.
The global book landscape has been in flux in recent years. In affluent countries, there’s been a noticeable decline in the sale of physical books, attributed largely to the rise of e-books. However, the trend took an interesting turn in 2015 when e-book sales began to slow down during the first half of the year. This indicates the persistent allure of traditional books and the unique experience they offer.
In summary, books, be it in physical or digital format, serve as vessels of knowledge, entertainment, and culture. They transcend time, capturing the essence of different epochs, and play a pivotal role in shaping civilizations. The evolution of books reflects the ever-changing landscape of human innovation and our ceaseless quest for knowledge.