The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today. It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times. I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know! This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!
In the most important aspects, codices are very like the bound books we use today. Scrolls were long parchments or papyrus with the text written down the front which could then be rolled up for storage. Around the first century A.D., a codex started to come into use and featured a set of pages bound together on one end with a sturdy cover and spine easy for labeling. The only real difference between the idea of a codex and books as we know them today, is that a codex was usually handwritten. And sometimes a codex could be a folded series of pages like in the image above which is an ancient Mayan codex. These were huge advances over the scroll format. Codices were easier to carry, more compact, could fit more text because you could write on the front and back of a page, and the most important advancement - you could read text non-linearly. You could skip and skim parts of the codex very easily and compare sections, while with a scroll it was necessary to keep what you weren't reading rolled up.
It would be interesting to think that there were some Ancient Times hold-outs who loved that they were able to roll up their books and couldn't accept that codices were an improvement on the reading system. There's some speculation with historians that Christians helped make codices popular because they used them to write out the Bible (which was much more practical due to the Bible's length). It is also speculated that Christians wanted to use the codex because scrolls were widely used by the Jews. Indeed Jewish people sometimes still have Torah scrolls for formal ceremonial use.
By the sixth century, scrolls were completely obsolete, although the scroll was used longer in the Far East than in the West. So if we look at the example of history, we still have some time before physical books are phased out! (But I don't want them to be! I still love my physical books!)
Do you think physical books will become obsolete a century from now? Or perhaps more of a collector's item for the avid reader?
The New York Times (much more informative on this topic)
The Book and Paper Group