Books

 

The book has enjoyed an extraordinary journey.  It started, in a form hardly recognisable today, as the way to store the epic poems of Greek mythology and to record the household accounts of the wealthy. It evolved into being an elite object of Christian veneration then to become the first, and for a long time, dominant mass medium. As the main device of human communication for two millennia it spawned a huge range of genres which have shown remarkable resilience in the face of newspaper publishing, broadcasting and the web. The book did for text what the theatre did for the spoken word.  It extended the reach of authors, taking ideas to a wider public and preserving them over time.

Over its 2,000 year history the book industry developed the commercial template from which other media have taken their lead.  The familiar split of tasks between creating content (the author and illustrator), production (the publisher and printer) and distribution (book binders and booksellers) all evolved out of the book trade.  The issues of copyright, intellectual piracy, censorship, advertising and commercial sponsorship were all first encountered by books.

Books, as we experience them today, include a vast array of formats and purposes.  They can be a quick entertainment on a plane journey; a luxurious object of decoration on a coffee table; a source of ideas in a kitchen; a store of facts; an instruction manual or simply something we like to look at on our shelves even if we never read them.

The book remains the medium of choice for the origination of ideas by the individual creative writer. Alternatives such as newspapers, radio, television and film need the collaboration of teams but the book allows the lone author to works in their own way. And the book is frequently the base from which other media properties are built, particularly by converting the characters and plot of a novel into other dramatic forms.