Books are part and parcel of our lives. They inspire, inform, persuade and entertain us. They give us answers to questions about every aspect of life. Is this enough to consider books a form of media?
Books are a form of print media. Print media is any tool used to convey information in a printed manner, i.e., using paper and ink. Writers use books to spread information and knowledge about a specific topic to the whole world.
Come along as I explore the reasons why books are considered media. I will also take you down memory lane to when books were the first forms of media and show you how they’ve evolved.
Why Books Are Considered Media
To understand why books are considered mass media, let’s look at the general characteristics of mass media and how books fit into each of them.
Reaches a Wide Audience
One of the characteristics of mass media is its ability to reach a large audience, and books are no different in this regard. A book can only sell a few million copies, but its concept and ideas can spread widely, transcending its physical sales.
Take, for instance, the Bible. Many people are aware of the notions embedded in it and apply them without buying the book. The same applies to various other popular books of different genres. Most people are aware of the concepts that only a tiny percentage have read.
So how do people get hold of these concepts and ideas?
The information is passed down to them by those that have read and adopted the book’s teachings. With the advent of technology, information about a book can easily be passed across a broad audience by simply placing it on platforms with large audiences.
For instance, there are TV programs, YouTube channels, book clubs, and even online blogs that discuss all manner of books. The books’ ideas can be transferred to others via these outlets.
As you can see, a book’s information can reach a vast audience through the people who read it and other types of media.
Impacts the Society
Books have, from time immemorial, influenced a society’s way of life. The works of Plato and Aristotle, for instance, shaped the way of life of ancient Greeks.
They transmit a people’s history from generation to generation and shape their present. Historians have used books and other records about civilization to understand the life of people in a specific time and place.
Books are also vital for a nation’s education, industry, and social life. Lawyers and judges constantly refer to the books of law, doctors to the reservoirs of medical knowledge. In contrast, teachers and students refer to textbooks for knowledge compiled over time.
We constantly read to be inspired and to stay knowledgeable and informed about the fast-changing world. Books give us a deep understanding of ourselves and our society.
Reaches a Heterogeneous and Scattered Audience
Books, as a form of mass media, reach various types of people scattered all over the world. People of different ages, religions, ethnic backgrounds, and political affiliations can consume similar information from a book.
For instance, a person in the east of Africa can acquire a book written by an American author. Moreover, this has been facilitated by the publication of electronic books (eBooks), which are more easily and affordably accessible than physical books.
It’s Mostly a One-Way Communication
Another significant characteristic of mass media is that the message communicated through it can’t receive immediate feedback. It is majorly a one-way transmission process.
Readers can consume a book without giving an instant response. This is perhaps due to the geographical distance between the source (author) and the receiver (reader).
In other cases, we consume information from books of long-dead authors. Popular books of great authors like William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens are still being read to date, but we can’t give feedback since the authors are no longer alive.
Today, however, you can provide feedback about a book thanks to communications technology. Writers of this age have websites, blogs, email addresses, and social media pages through which you can react to their books.
What Is Media?
Media is any communication tool that delivers information to the masses. Media has always been a component of our society since time immemorial. Over time, media has evolved from primitive to modern forms. People have invented different ways to spread information.
Currently, media is categorized into three types:
- Broadcasting media
- Digital media
- Print media
Broadcast media includes the transmission of news through channels like television and radio. Digital media, on the other hand, involves the distribution of information online through social platforms, emails, online publications, etc.
Print media, as mentioned earlier, involves spreading news through printed materials in the form of words and images. Print media encompasses newspapers, magazines, journals, books, comics, etc.
History of Books
Books are among the first forms of print media. Books existed even before the invention of printing technology, produced by handwriting. Religious scripts, sacred writings, and scholarly works were all assembled as books.
Throughout history, various materials have been utilized for books.
In ancient Egypt, papyrus scrolls were the first format of books. The scrolls were superseded by codex in the 6th century. The codex had pages handwritten on parchment (a kind of animal skin) and covers made from wood. Since codex was more portable and easy to store, the early Christians used it to spread the Gospel to faraway lands.
Another significant invention followed the codex: woodblock printing. It involved a meticulous process of molding words onto a wooden frame, inking them, and pressing them to create text on a page. The Chinese made the first printed book using this method: a Buddhist text called The Diamond Sutra.
Around the same time in Europe, however, texts were still being copied by hand. Monasteries were the learning centers, where religious and secular books were hand-copied and preserved. These medieval books were highly valued and not widely available.
In 1448, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. This invention revolutionized the industry. Multiple copies of a book could now be produced within a short period. Gutenberg’s invention marked the beginning of mass communication using books.
Book printing became a booming business in Europe by the end of the 15th century. The early book printers also acted as booksellers.
Publishing companies started sprouting in the 19th century with the aim of helping authors publish and distribute their works. This has seen billions of books circulate throughout the world since then.
In recent years, self-publishing has become the norm. Platforms like Amazon KDP allow authors to publish and print their books on demand. eBooks are on the rise, with e-readers such as the Kindle becoming popular. Information through books can now be cheaply, quickly, and widely accessed.
To Sum it Up
Books are media through which writers share their experiences and knowledge about a specific subject. They are the oldest forms of print media and have evolved through time. Today, we can access books more cheaply and easily thanks to technological advancements.