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  Library Skills Series

How to Use a Book





Parts of a book

Sources of information are very variant in today's world of knowledge.  A book, like a periodical or a pamphlet, is considered a major source of information which falls within the print type of library materials.

Handling a book carefully lengthens its life. Understanding the parts of a book helps a reader use it more intelligently and enables him to get the maximum benefit within a shorter period of time.

In terms of the physical structure, a book may be a paper back, or a hard cover (bound). Obviously a book with a hard cover is more expensive than a paper back.  The spine of the book is the part of the cover which conceals the folds of the sections.  It normally bears the title, author and publisher.  The call number of the book is also printed on the lower part of the spine.

It is customary to divide the printed matter in a book into three sections: preliminaries, text matter, and subsidiaries.  (Kenneth Whittaker, Using Libraries. London: Andre Deutsch, 1972. p.76).



  1. Title Page: Is the first important page in a book. It includes the following information:
    1. Title: name of the book.
    1. Subtitle: a descriptive phrase which clarifies the title. e.g. Shakespeare: a biographical and critical study.
    1. Author’s name and facts concerning his status, such as academic position and/or degrees.
    1. Name of other persons responsible for the book, such as a joint author, translator, editor, compiler or illustrator.
    1. Edition: whether it is the second, third or revised.
    1. Publisher e.g. Longman, McGraw Hill.
    1. Place of publication, usually the city is given not the country; e.g. London not Britain.
  1. Verso (Back) of the title page: includes the following information:
    1. Date of copyright.
    1. Dates of the various reprints or editions. All copies of a book printed from a set of plates make up an edition. If more copies are printed later from the same plates, the book has been REPRINTED. But if any changes are made in the book, either bringing it up-to-date or adding material, it is called a NEW or REVISED EDITION. In science, for instance, it is important to have the latest edition. (Ella V. Aldrich, Using Books and Libraries. 5th .ed. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1967. p 9)
    1. Name of the copyright owner/owners. It is an exclusive right to publish, reproduce or sell a book. An author copyrighting a book in the U.S.A., for example must deposit two copies in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and pay a fee for copyrighting.


The Subject Approach to Information
Copyright A C FOSKETT 1977


  1. Other information, such as the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and the classification number.

    3.      Dedication Page: usually follows the title page and is simple in form, e.g. "To my Wife"

    4.   Preface or Foreword: is a message from the author to the reader.

  1. It states the author’s purpose in writing the book.
  2. It indicates those for whom the book is written.
  3. It explains the arrangement, symbols, etc. used in the book.
  4. It expresses the author’s appreciation to those who helped in writing the book. Sometimes acknowledgements appear on a separate page.

5.      Table of contents: is simply a list off the chapters or sections of the book with their titles and corresponding page numbers.

6.      List of illustrations: is a list of the pictures, maps, and other illustrations in the order of their appearance in the book with the appropriate page numbers.

7.      Introduction: may be written by the author, or by a person of importance, or one who considers the book an important contribution.  In the introduction both the author and the reader get started in the subject matter of the book.  The introduction may be the first chapter in the book.


The text matter constitutes the main body of the book. Explanatory notes supplement the text matter and they usually appear at the bottom of the page (footnotes), at the end of the chapter or at the end of the book.


Subsidiaries come after the text matter of the book and include the following items:

1.      Appendix / Appendices: Additional materials that are supplementary to the text but cannot be introduced in it. Such materials would include tables, special notes, etc.

2.      Bibliography: a list of references, books, magazine articles, pamphlets, documents, etc. that the author referred to in writing the book. The bibliography, arranged alphabetically, appears either at the end of each chapter or at the end of the book.

3.      Glossary: a list of the definitions of the technical terms or other special words used in the text:

4.      Index: a list of the topics discussed in the text. It is arranged alphabetically with the appropriate page numbers. An index is important in using a book because it saves times in locating a particular topic. Some books may also have an index to the people mentioned in the text.


NOTES: There are a few other parts that may make up a book, but the above mentioned parts are the most basic that are generally found in every book.


A book that belongs to a library is for public usage. Therefore, marking its pages, cutting off or folding some of them, is against the common good.




This Series is Dedicated To: 

Br. Anton de Roeper, FSC
Vice Chancellor (1987-1993)

For his strong support to the Library as reflected in his statement: "I remain convinced that the frequency of student access to the library facilities is a very good indicator of the quality of intellectual work undertaken  in  the  University. In  the   academic sphere this is my chief preoccupation".

Bethlehem University Library,
1996 All rights reserved


Updated June 2008

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