Thursday, August 23, 2018

Can You Define What A Book Is?

What exactly is a book?

It seems like a simple question, but the answer can be surprisingly varied, even complex.

Some say a book can even be one that is not read, but is heard.  The audiobook has exploded in the second decade of the 21st century.

Others claim a book comes in the printed form, with a cover and about 200 pages inside for an adult, non-fiction book and perhaps 350-400 for fiction, though sometimes it could be double that.

Some will champion the e-book and its digital ease of availability.  The ebook could morph into something big, including videos, images, and links that could turn it into a warehouse of information.

Books can come in all formats, lengths, and styles.  A children’s board book is as much a book as anything else.  At its core, a book seems to have targeted content with a beginning, middle, and an end.  It tells a story or presents information in a way that should be helpful to its readers.

Everyone has a raw sense of what a book is – and most will probably agree on its ideal format.  It’s what’s inside the book, regardless of format, layout design, length, or cost, that matters.

Books could contain few or no words, such as with books of photography and illustrations.  They can be full of reprinted texts from blogs, books, essays, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, pamphlets, and other materials.  They can share a shocking but true story or they can feature the most fantastical, made-up story in the history of humanity.  Books can save our souls, heal our spirits, nurture our bodies, educate us, or lobby us to act a certain way.  In short, what goes into a book can be any images, words, ideas, or collection of facts and fantasies.

Scholarly books and self-published poetry books, as varied as they may be are considered books.  A 32-page, colorful children’s book for a six-year-old is no different than a 400-page tome on hospice care.  A self-help book in Braille is no different than an erotic thriller audiobook.  Hardcover, trade paper, mass market, e-book, audiobook, and all formats containing all kinds of content -- are indeed books.

No doubt, technology, creativity, entrepreneurial experimentation, and other factors – perhaps some political, financial or environmental – may dictate future forms of the book.  Over the years the form has changed greatly, from written scrolls to five-pound, oversized printed books to mass-produced pocketbooks, then books on tape, to ebooks, and now downloadable audio and print-on-demand.  What’s next?

The only thing radical that could happen is that something negates the need to read or listen to a book, where one day humans download information into their brains.   Perhaps as we become part-human, part-machine, we will consume our information differently.

Or perhaps the next major war will destroy our infrastructure to the point books will no longer be produced.  Perhaps the Internet gets destroyed or printing presses are, obliterated.  Maybe environmental destruction or a nuclear bomb will simply wipe out much of humanity and its books.

I’d like to bet that we don’t destroy our world and that invasive technology will have its limits.  Books should and will be with us for many years to come, whatever form people choose to enjoy.

Insights On Books From A Few Famous Authors

On Reading Writing and Living with Books is a wonderful but brief paperback book by The London Library (Pushkin Press). The London Library claims it is “the world’s largest independent library.  Founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle with over seventeen miles of shelving and more than a million books.” This book contains a number of essays from famous writers. I quote three of them:

E.M. Forster
“Everyone able to read a good book becomes a wiser man.  He becomes a similar centre of light and order, and just insight into the things around him.  A collection of good books contains all the nobleness and wisdom of the world before us.  Every heroic and victorious soul has left his stamp upon it.  A collection of books is the best of all Universities; for the University only teaches us to read the book; you must go to the book itself for what it is.

“Knowledge will perish if we do not stand up for it, and testify. It is never safe, never harvested.  It has to be protected not only against the gangster but against a much more charming and seductive foe:  the crowd., “I know what I like and I know what I want,” says the crowd, “and I don’t want all these shelves and shelves of books Scrap them.”

George Eliot
“The author’s capital is his brain-power –power of invention, power of writing.  But man or woman who publishes writings inevitably assumes the office of teacher or influencer of the public mind.”

Virginia Woolf

“To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries.  Where are we to begin?  How are we to bring order into this multitudinous chaos and so get the deepest and widest pleasure from what we read?”


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute Conference.

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