Do You Know What Makes a Book a Book?


The increasing popularity of e-books has some people asking what makes a book a book? Is it the physical qualities of paper, ink, and binding or the content? It’s true that the book as we know it started with paper, namely the Codex, dating back to 4th century Greece. In its traditional form, a book is a book because of paper, type, and cover.

As e-readers and e-books become more pervasive, my appreciation for the old-fashioned book has grown. I cherish that precious hardcover and paperback even more. This TED-Ed Original Lesson about the evolution of the book brings a bit of nostalgia.

Milestones: Evolution of the Book

Here are the key milestones of the book according to this TED-Ed video by Julie Dreyfuss.

4000 B.C.: Papyrus was invented in Egypt as a portable material to write on.

179-41 B.C.: Paper as a writing surface was invented in China.

4th Century: The first book, the Codex, was born.

15th Century: The invention of the Gutenberg printing press is the turning point in the history of the book. It meant books no longer had to be handwritten by an elite class of monks and it was no longer the exclusive domain of the ruling class.