The Evolution of the Book and Its Many Forms
The desire to leave one’s thoughts behind in solid form has existed since the earliest times. Early forms of writing have been discovered on silk, wood and bamboo.
The Chinese invented paper in the first century, but it took several centuries for the rest of the world to discover it. Books could be long scrolls of up to 40 metres and many cultures employed scribes to copy important texts for preservation. The Jewish Torah is the only remaining example of a scrolled book that is regularly in use today.
The book has been in use since sometime between the second and fourth centuries. The form changed from being a scroll to being a codex or collection of individual sheets pasted together. The codex could be rested on a table and contained tables of contents and indices. The books were still mainly intended for scholars. The form did not change for centuries.
Once only accessible to scholars because it was translated from the Hebrew to Latin, the break from Rome by Henry VIII enabled ordinary people to read and understand the Bible as it was translated into English. The introduction of the printing press during Medieval times enabled new ideas and new thinking to be freely distributed. All families had a Bible because by law they had to attend church.
These luxury items are expensive to produce but beautiful to read. Produced using glossy expensive paper and including beautiful photographs, hardback books are bought as gifts for adults or people with an interest in the subject.
Quickly and easily produced, paperback books are produced on cheap paper but they can be read by anyone from children to adults. Some novels can cross over the age gap and be read by all.
Comic books/Graphic Novels
Once considered childish, graphic novels and comics are now a form of art in their own right. They are usually beautifully produced and drawn and are read by a variety of people in all walks of life.
Non-fiction books are available on almost any subject. They offer a great depth of knowledge on a single subject and can be read by anyone wishing to know more on a subject.
Autobiographies are always popular particularly politicians, celebrities and sports personalities. Adults with an interest in life histories will enjoy these books.
Once essential for every home, now encyclopaedias are considered old-fashioned. There is still a place for specialised encyclopaedias that contain detailed information on their topics, some of which are linked to websites to ensure the information stays up-to-date. Children can still find these books useful for homework.
There is a steady market in audio books especially when it is a well-loved author read by a household name actor. Audio books not only offer entertainment for blind and partially sighted people, but they can provide great entertainment during a long journey for families.
The next big revolution of the book is here. For centuries books have consisted of pages bound together between a cover, but now they are being converted to digital information. The success of e-readers is that they can store hundreds of books on a single device and sometimes be bought more cheaply. The popularity of e-readers ensures that anyone can use a digital book, they can now be borrowed from libraries and many different subjects and novels have been released as digital books.
The next evolution of the book also shakes up the publishers. The emergence of self-publishing companies has enabled authors to take control. The companies print a book as it is ordered, or ‘on demand’. Not all books that are published this way are best sellers, but sometimes such books can catch the imagination of the public and they are catapulted to the top of the best seller lists.
Anyone can choose to buy a book as ‘print on demand’: more likely to try the medium will be those who have previously read an author’s work.
- License: Creative Commons image source
This guest post was contributed by Love Reading, an online resource founded for book lovers since 2005.