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Conquerors or usurpers wishing to destroy a people’s heritage have often burned its books, as did Shih Huang-ti in China in 213 , the Spaniards in Mexico in 1520, and the Nazis in the 1930s.There is no wholly satisfactory definition of a book, as the word covers a variety of publications (for example, some publications that appear periodically, such as , may be considered books).For statistical purposes, however, the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization defines a book as “a non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 pages excluding covers.” Periodical publications may be further divided into two main classes, magazines.Though the boundary between them is not sharp—there are magazines devoted to news, and many newspapers have magazine features—their differences of format, tempo, and function are sufficiently marked: the newspaper (daily or weekly) usually has large, loose pages, a high degree of immediacy, and miscellaneous contents; whereas the magazine (weekly, monthly, or quarterly) has smaller pages, is usually fastened together and sometimes bound, and is less urgent in tone and more specialized in content.The history of publishing is characterized by a close interplay of technical innovation and social change, each promoting the other.Publishing as it is known today depends on a series of three major inventions—writing, paper, and printing—and one crucial social development—the spread of literacy.

The activity has grown from small beginnings into a vast and complex industry responsible for the dissemination of all manner of cultural material; its impact upon civilization is impossible to calculate.Published matter falls into two main categories, periodical and nonperiodical; publications that appear at more or less regular intervals and are members of a series and those that appear on single occasions (except for reissues of essentially the same material).Of the nonperiodical publications, books constitute by far the largest class; they are also, in one form or another, the oldest of all types of publication and go back to the earliest civilizations.Before the invention of writing, perhaps by the Sumerians in the 4th millennium , information could be spread only by word of mouth, with all the accompanying limitations of place and time.Writing was originally regarded not as a means of disseminating information but as a way to fix religious formulations or to secure codes of law, genealogies, and other socially important matters, which had previously been committed to memory.

The activity has grown from small beginnings into a vast and complex industry responsible for the dissemination of all manner of cultural material; its impact upon civilization is impossible to calculate.

Published matter falls into two main categories, periodical and nonperiodical; publications that appear at more or less regular intervals and are members of a series and those that appear on single occasions (except for reissues of essentially the same material).

Of the nonperiodical publications, books constitute by far the largest class; they are also, in one form or another, the oldest of all types of publication and go back to the earliest civilizations.

Before the invention of writing, perhaps by the Sumerians in the 4th millennium , information could be spread only by word of mouth, with all the accompanying limitations of place and time.

Writing was originally regarded not as a means of disseminating information but as a way to fix religious formulations or to secure codes of law, genealogies, and other socially important matters, which had previously been committed to memory.

Although printing was thought of at first merely as a means of avoiding copying errors, its possibilities for mass-producing written matter soon became evident.