Book science

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The book studies (also Buchwesen and book Customer ) deals with the book - as well as related forms, such as the brochure, the pamphlet, etc. - as a medium of writing communication among cultural, economic and sociological issues. Research questions arise from the spectrum of functions and achievements of the book in the communication system of history as well as the present. Characteristic of book studies as an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary science is therefore a methodological pluralism: adoption and adaptation of methods and models from other disciplines. In the past, bibliography was also commonly used as an expression for book studies.

The scientific contexts of book studies are diverse and sometimes go back a long way. One of the roots is the 'literary history' of the 18th century as a historical-systematic book study, which has its specialized branch in bibliophilia. The focus of book studies was and is on incunabula and early printing research as well as analytical printing research. From a historical-sociological perspective, the history of the book trade explores the economy of the book and the exploitation chain from the author to the book trade to the buyer and reader . More recently, economic issues have been explicitly added.

Availability of the book

For a conceptualization of the term medium , the Swiss media and communication scientist Ulrich Saxer developed a nominal definition which “gives media science an identity, does justice to the expansive subject and integrates the media-related contributions from different disciplines”. This definition describes media as follows: "Media are complex institutionalized systems around organized communication channels of specific performance." The focus of the definition is the aspect of communication channels. This is the focal point and summarizes media as elements of communicative action.

A book science that regards the book as a communication medium focuses on the book-specific communication process, taking into account its systematic nature. Successful communication can only be guaranteed if the media are organized, institutionalized and functional. Organizations such as publishers and bookstores ensure that the communication chain is maintained in a purposeful manner. Institutions establish the book in a social context and functionality considers the book's potential for impact.

The idea of ​​media as a communication channel is fundamental to this integrative model . This transports specific characters , supported by media technologies . Such an understanding of media means more than their mere materiality and thus their physical nature. Rather, it is to be understood as the dispositive of a medium, here the book. Ulrich Saxer summarizes this fact with the concept of the quality of provision, which can be traced back to the journalist and communication scientist Hans K. Platte. Provision quality includes sign systems, content, technology of the provision process and here the periodicity of production, manufacturing aspects per se as well as various formats and provision times, rooms and costs. According to Ulrich Saxer, the availability quality is one of the most important fields of work in book studies. He also includes dealing with the formal object of the book as well as book communication, management and functionality. Book functionality is the sum of all the services assigned to the book medium, which is composed of various book products and their respective quality of provision as well as their acceptance, resulting from the bonus potential. This shows that book communication in particular, like media communication in general, is a highly complex process. Every change in an element inherent in the system causes a change in the entire system : “From the writing of the text by the author to the reading of the printed matter by the book owner or borrower, the production, supply and user chain is long, and the possibilities are accordingly varied Misunderstandings are misdirected or even broken off by refusal to communicate. "

The aspect of availability quality largely affects the areas of typography and the production of books. Due to the substantial share in increasing the functionality of book communication, approaches from reader research, especially research on reading motivation and effects, are relevant. Since the quality of provision is closely linked to the corresponding media technologies, "different, historically updated representations of the text transmission" and the related research questions must be examined in each case, analogous to a broad book term. In addition to changed media-historical aspects of the book, the self-image of a discipline of book studies and its associated research questions must be taken into account, as it were as a framework.

History of book studies

Book studies is currently taught under this name at five German and one Swiss universities. The following naming follows the dates of origin.

University of Leipzig : At the instigation of the German Booksellers Association, a professorship for book trade management was established at the then commercial college in 1925. This is followed by the professorship for book studies established in 1994 at the Institute for Communication and Media Studies at the University of Leipzig . Current management: Siegfried Lokatis (since 2006).

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz : The Mainz Institute for Book Studies emerged from the Gutenberg Museum, which was founded in 1900. In 1947 an endowed professorship was established, which was transferred to a full professorship in 1949, the Gutenberg Chair. Its first owner, Aloys Ruppel , was also director of the museum until 1963. Current management: Stephan Füssel (since 1992).

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg : From the historical auxiliary sciences a professorship for book and librarianship arose in 1983, which Alfred G. Swierk held and which was initially attached to the chair for history of the Middle Ages and historical auxiliary sciences. There has been a professorship for book studies since 1997, the corresponding chair since 2010, current head: Ursula Rautenberg (since 1997), as well as another professorship, current head: Svenja Hagenhoff (since 2011).

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München : The book studies courses at the Institute for German Philology were founded on the initiative of Herbert G. Göpfert , publishing director at Carl Hanser Verlag. Under the direction of Georg Jäger , the postgraduate course in book studies was established in 1987 and the diploma course in book studies in 1996. Christine Haug followed in 2006 as Professor of Book Studies. As part of the implementation of the Bologna reforms, the BA in Book Studies, MA Book and Media Research and MA in Publishing Practice were introduced in the 2012/2013 winter semester. The Center for Book Studies: Book Research - Publishing Industry - Digital Media was founded in 2018 .

Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität : The English scholar Bernhard Fabian has been profiling book research since the 1960s as book history, analytical print research and editing studies. Until 1999 the institute was called Research Institute for Book Studies and Bibliography / Institutum Erasmianum. Today the Institute for Book Studies and Text Research offers courses in the Master of Arts in British, American and Postcolonial Studies in English. Current management: Corinna Norrick-Rühl (since 2020).

University of St. Gallen : The interdisciplinary Center for Book and Publishing Studies (competence area book studies) at the Institute for Media and Communication Management at the University of St. Gallen has existed since 2006. According to the range of subjects as a university for economics, law and social sciences, the focus is on Book and media economics teaching program in the legal and economic field with clear practical relevance. Current management: Vincent Kaufmann (since 2009).

Methods of book studies

Historical-hermeneutic book research

Typology and analytical pressure research

Specific book-scientific methods have been developed in the context of material, physical cataloging and here especially for the printed book of the manual press era. In connection with the cataloging and bibliographical description of incunabula ( incunabula research ) that began in the 18th century, a . a. the typology developed by Robert Proctor and Karl Haebler as a method to systematically record and classify the diversity of incunabula. When printing without an imprint, printing workshops could be determined and the year or period in which the book was printed could be determined. The Descriptive Bibliography / Analytical Bibliography (including Ronald B. McKerrow , Philipp Gaskell and Martin Boghardt) further developed the method for prints from the 16th to the 19th century. The focus is on comparing as many copies of an edition as possible. Variants in the print and in the text provide information on the production process and the organization of the printing workshop. The method can also be used for literary problems with an unclear print or edition history. Analytical research on manuscripts, based on analytical research on printing, especially on literary works of the 19th and 20th centuries, examines the entire written tradition (including drafts, print manuscripts, proofs) in order to document the genesis of a work up to the point of printing.

Paper and watermark science

Paper and watermark analysis is also part of book science methods for dating and assigning printed works. A spatial classification of prints without imprint is only possible to a very limited extent, since paper has been traded widely as a commodity and a sought-after commodity. As a comparison and reference method, this method requires large, methodologically uniform corpora in which watermarks are collected and cataloged. The still important, comprehensive corpus, the watermark card index compiled by Gerard Piccard in the main state archive in Stuttgart since 1951, is based on drawings on index cards, which are now available in digitized form. The "Watermark Information System" (WZIS) is currently being set up and will bring together the digitized holdings of watermarks in medieval manuscripts.

Methods of binding research and waste research are also used for historical book research.

Methods of historical reader research

Provenance research

The provenance research is the historical tradition of works as well as the qualitative research reader of great importance. For library history, collections or libraries that have been torn apart over time can be reconstructed from provenance entries. Book trade history uses provenance entries to provide information about trading rooms and the flow of goods in the early book trade as well as the migration of copies.

Provenances are recorded in the context of detailed descriptions of manuscripts, in the case of prints as part of the specimen-specific features. On the book itself, indications of origin and ownership are to be made accessible via:

  • Handwritten entries of the name of a private owner and / or an institution
  • bookplate
  • Library stamp
  • Dedications and a. of the author, as well as donation notes
  • Annotations, marginalia, etc.

External sources of provenance research include mentions of book titles in (historical) library and book catalogs, accession journals, antiquarian catalogs, wills, archive materials, etc.

Particularly in the case of private owners, the identification of a specific person, their life data, professional affiliation or social classification, which is of interest for reader research, is often only possible through the extensive research of biographical reference works and archival, also unpublished, sources.

Statistical methods of book and reader research

Basic questions in the history of the book trade are often quantitative: questions about book (title) production figures (issues, copies), the temporal course of book (title) production, the number of copies received, the availability and distribution of reading, reading interests, etc.

The methodological access is mostly limited to simple analysis methods of descriptive statistics, which are evaluated quantitatively. A fundamental problem in historical statistics is the quality of the data available. It is not uncommon for it to be unclear how the records came about and what exactly they capture, and less often the further back in history they go. A statistical evaluation should be preceded by a careful assessment of which questions can be asked of the database.

Empirical research

Book studies meanwhile deals with issues that can be assigned to the real sciences. Examples include questions about the structure of markets, the organization of companies such as publishers or dealers , the behavior of customers or readers (for reading research see below) or the technical feasibility of digital goods or infrastructures. The real scientific reference requires an interaction of theory and empiricism in research . Motivated in this way, it is necessary to supplement the traditional method canon of book studies with empirical research. The cognitive goals of empirically founded book studies are descriptive, explanatory (i.e. theory or hypothesis testing), exploratory (theory or hypothesis generating) and also creative (and thus normative ).

Concrete methods originate on the one hand from empirical social research, in which qualitative and quantitative empirical research is differentiated. In the latter, both descriptive and analytical statistics ( inferential statistics , multivariate statistics ) are used.

On the other hand, methods from applied computer science are also used. Here the technical feasibility is tested through prototypical implementations. This z. B. in the development of digital information goods such. B. Enhanced e-books or apps .

Methods of modern reading and reader research

Different methods are used in reading and reader research, depending on the question. The most commonly used method is interview . With their help, selection criteria or motivations related to reading media and reading material can be queried. In this context, questionnaires and interviews are primarily used to ascertain reading socialization factors and to research the effects, functions and performance of reading. Concrete media actions and their effects can be recorded through observations - on the one hand through self-observations such as diary entries, on the other hand through external observations using observation sheets, video recordings or measurements. Tests are mainly used in the field of reading skills assessment , including in the IGLU studies and the PISA studies . Content analyzes are mostly used to structure results obtained through other survey methods. A desideratum of reading research are studies that deal with the reading process. These are difficult to substantiate, since the brain activities and neurobiological processes must be mapped during reading.

Reading research

Disciplines and areas of expertise

Reading research as a comprehensive research complex plays a more or less important role in almost all scientific disciplines. The following disciplines define specific fields of reading research.

Literature and linguistics research reading processes and reading effects through the pre-structuring through language, form and content. They are based on the content that has been read.

The neurosciences research reading as a physical process of perceiving signs and their processing by the nervous system . Psychological approaches place the cognitive and emotional processes during reading and their effects on the personality at the center of their analyzes.

The pedagogy goes beyond the findings of neuroscience and researched conditions of reading socialization or the literary socialization and methods of promoting reading to improve reading skills and general education of children and youth. Sociology , communication studies and media studies (book studies) explore reading from a holistic perspective of the reading process, reading medium, recipient and institutionalized social framework as a cultural technique.

The historical sciences research reading from this perspective, linking the development of reading and different reading media in connection with the development of the social fabric or individual social systems.

Reading motivation and reading impact research

Reading motivation and reading impact research developed from the benefit and reward approaches of general media research. The central research questions focus on the “before” and “after” of the actual reading act. Studies ask why and for what purpose people read, what effects reading has and how the two are related.

Process-oriented reading and book usage research

Process-oriented reading research focuses its knowledge of the actual reading act and researches to what extent this is possible and what happens in the process. In this perspective, the concept of reading competence is also anchored, which implies research questions after receiving written coded information. It is based on a cognitive-psychological construction of meaning that takes place on the basis of individual knowledge structures and is subject to the influence of individual social contexts.

Reading socialization research

Reading socialization research orients its questions on microscopic and macroscopic social structures , especially family, school and peer groups. She asks under what conditions the acquisition of reading competence takes place and what effects this has on the social situation of the individual. It mostly focuses on children and young people. The background to this field of research are mostly theories on general socialization and personal development . Reading socialization research mostly aims to transfer its findings into applications for promoting reading .

Social theory

Reading research in the context of social theory relates to the functions of reading for macroscopic social structures. Reading is seen here as social communication that has an influence on the genesis of society, for example in systems theory or cultural studies . A typical theorem, for example, is the knowledge gap thesis, which relates the emergence of socio-cultural problems to the interaction between reading skills and education .

Criticism of reading research

One consequence of the scope of reading research is the lack of uniform definitions of central terms such as reading or reading competence, which are used differently in disciplines and individual studies. A unified basic theory of reading has not yet been drawn up. Interdisciplinary references are still too often neglected in empirical work.

The theoretical hypotheses of reading research and the empirical findings, which are often interwoven with the practice of reading promotion, are often still too far apart to allow real statements.

The historically determined view of reading as a culturally and intellectually valuable activity, which makes objective research into changes in reading methods and reading media difficult, is still problematic. The integration of new digital reading media has hardly taken place so far.

Overall, there is an inadequate data situation in some areas, especially because reading research is often limited to the instances of family, school and peers and reading research is limited to the area of ​​children and young people. For adults there is neither an adequate database nor theoretical models for researching the meaning and changes in reading.

Book trade history

Research into book trade history is one of the main areas of activity in book studies. They are generally based on chronological broader lines of development: manuscripts production and trade until the mid-15th century, the book trade in the early printing time, exhibition and exchange era until the mid-18th century, modernization and professionalization in 1800, differentiation and institutionalization since the 19th century. Century, book trade in the 20th century. The thematic priorities within the research on book trade history are often carried out in an interdisciplinary manner through analysis and the like. a. economic, cultural, legal and political history developments. A distinction can be made between the investigation of endogenous, industry-internal phenomena and exogenous framework conditions. In addition to the predominantly university-based research, book trade history in Germany has received an important impetus to this day through the establishment of the Historical Commission of the German Stock Exchange Association in 1875. On behalf of the Historical Commission of the Börsenverein, the most extensive accounts of the history of the German book trade were published at the beginning of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century.


In Germany, book studies is classified as a minor subject . The Small Subjects department at the University of Mainz has a total of five locations.

Book studies has been an established research and study discipline in Germany for several decades. The oldest chair is at the University of Mainz (JGU) and celebrated its 60th anniversary in June 2007. The Mainz chair, which has a media science profile, pursues a practice-oriented approach, which is mainly characterized by the collaboration of lecturers from publishing houses and the business structure.

Book studies at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have existed since 1983. The research and teaching of the chair focuses on books as a communication medium, its functions in society and its position in the media system in the past and present. Other focal points are electronic publishing and digital economy. As part of a long-term project funded by the German Research Foundation, Erlangen Buchwissenschaft has set up the book studies part of the specialist portal for library, book and information sciences b2i and continues to look after it.

The courses at the Center for Book Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) pursue an interweaving of academic and practical orientation in teaching. Within the LMU, book studies has been successfully cooperating with neighboring disciplines for many years, including a. with the business administration and law faculties, in the non-university environment with publishers and institutions in the culture and literature industry. Since 2018, this has been reflected in the establishment of the Center for Book Studies: Book Research - Publishing Industry - Digital Media .

Book Studies at the University of Leipzig (AML) is primarily oriented towards book history and methodological communication studies. The University of Münster (WWU) offers book studies modules at the English seminar as part of the “Master of British, American and Postcolonial Studies” course. Also related are various practical media courses at the University of Technology, Economics and Culture (HTWK) in Leipzig and the University of the Media (HdM) in Stuttgart.

In addition to a scientific activity, graduates of a book studies course can find employment in different areas. There are career opportunities in the publishing industry, in which book scholars work in the commercial, manufacturing or content-related sectors, depending on the focus of their training . Furthermore, the book trade , associations as well as public libraries , libraries and archives offer entry and promotion opportunities .


Research in book studies is currently funded primarily through the following grants and prizes:

  • The Thalia doctoral scholarship has been awarded (since 2007) at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. In this way, Thalia Universitätsbuchhandlung GmbH (Thalia West) supports young scholars in the field of book studies at Erlangen University. Doctoral students who research topics of market structure, corporate strategy and customer behavior in the popular book trade can receive a doctoral scholarship worth a total of 24,000 euros for 2, max. 2.5 years, the award of which is decided by a committee of books and economists at the university in coordination with a representative of the sponsoring company.
  • The Hugendubel bookstore has been donating prize money every year since 2008 for the best master's thesis in book studies at the Center for Book Studies at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich (LMU). The jury for the award ceremony is made up of representatives from the field, the Hugendubel management and representatives from the publishing industry.

Related areas

See also


  • Andrea Bertschi-Kaufmann, Cornelia Rosebrock (Ed.): Literacy. Educational task and research field . Beltz Juventa, Weinheim / Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-7799-1360-3 .
  • Margit Böck: Reading books in the media environment in Austria. Current findings and an outlook for future research. In: Heinz Bonfadelli, Priska Bucher (ed.): Reading in the media society. Status and prospects of research . Pestalozzianum, Zurich 2002, pp. 24–42.
  • Heinz Bonfadelli: Theoretical and methodological notes on book market and reader research. In: Reading in Transition - Research Perspectives in the Age of Multimedia. Edited by the Reading Foundation. Nomos-Verlags-Gesellschaft, Baden-Baden 1998, pp. 78–89.
  • Fritz Funke: Book customer. 6., revised. u. supplementary edition. KG Saur, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-928127-95-0 .
  • History of the German book trade in the 19th and 20th centuries . Volume 1: The Empire 1870–1918. (= History of the German book trade in the 19th and 20th centuries. 1). On behalf of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels ed. from the Historical Commission. Part 1–3. Frankfurt am Main et al. 2001, 2003, 2010; Volume 2: The Weimar Republic 1918–1933. (= History of the German book trade in the 19th and 20th centuries. 2). Part 1–2. Munich 2007, 2012.
  • Johannes Hansel: Book Studies for Germanists. Study edition . Arranged by Lydia Tschakert. Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 8th edition 1983, ISBN 3-503-02212-0 .
  • Marion Janzin, Joachim Güntner: The book from the book. 5000 years of book history . 3rd, revised. u. exp. Edition. Schlütersche, Hannover 2006, ISBN 3-89993-805-4 .
  • Friedrich Kapp, Johann Goldfriedrich: History of the German book trade . 4 volumes. Leipzig 1886–1913. Register volume: Zentralantiquariat der DDR, Leipzig 1970.
  • Thomas Keiderling: Book Studies as a Concept - Development Stations and Focal Points of Discussion. A research report. In: Dietrich Kerlen (Ed.): Book Studies - Media Studies. A symposium (= book studies research. 4). Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-447-04836-0 , pp. 1–23.
  • Dietrich Kerlen: Book effects research - measurement of a research field. In: Dietrich Kerlen, Inka Kirste: Book science and book effects research . VIII. Leipzig University Days for Media and Communication. Institute for Communication and Media Studies, Leipzig 2000, pp. 99–112.
  • Joachim Kirchner , Karl Löffler (Hrsg.): Lexicon of the entire book system. 3 volumes. Hiersemann, Leipzig 1935–1937; 2nd, completely revised edition. Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1987 ff.
  • Markus Nagel: From the endowed professorship for books, writing and printing to the Institute for Book Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz . Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2004.
  • Hans K. plate: Sociology of the means of mass communication. Analysis and reports . Munich / Basel 1965.
  • Ursula Rautenberg (Ed.): Book Studies in Germany. A manual. 2 volumes. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-11-020036-2 .
  • Sandra Rühr, Marina Mahling, Axel Kuhn: Methods of reading and reader research. In: Simone Fühles-Ubach, Michael Seadle, Konrad Umlauf (eds.): Handbook Methods of Library and Information Science. Library, user research, information analysis . De Gruyter, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-11-025553-9 .
  • Ulrich Saxer: Media Studies. In: Joachim-Felix Leonhard, Hans-Werner Ludwig (Ed.): Media Studies. A manual for the development of media and forms of communication . Volume 1. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999, ISBN 3-11-013961-8 , pp. 1-14.
  • Reinhard Wittmann : History of the German book trade. 3. Edition. CH Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-61760-7 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ S. Corsten u. a. (Ed.): Lexicon of the entire book industry. 2nd Edition. Stuttgart 1986 ff.
  2. ^ Ulrich Saxer : Media Studies. In: Joachim-Felix Leonhard, Hans-Werner Ludwig (Ed.): Media Studies. A manual for the development of media and forms of communication . Volume 1. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999, p. 5.
  3. ^ Ulrich Saxer: Media Studies. In: Joachim-Felix Leonhard, Hans-Werner Ludwig (Ed.): Media Studies. A manual for the development of media and forms of communication . Volume 1. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999, p. 6.
  4. ^ Ulrich Saxer: Book Studies as Media Studies. In: Ursula Rautenberg (Ed.): Book Studies in Germany. A manual . Volume 1: Theory and Research. De Gruyter Saur, Berlin / New York 2010, p. 88.
  5. Ursula Rautenberg: book. In: Ursula Rautenberg (Hrsg.): Reclams Sachlexikon des Buch . 3rd, verb. Edition. Stuttgart 2015, p. 83.
  6. ^ Professorship for Book Studies Leipzig: Homepage
  7. ^ Institute for Book Studies Mainz: Homepage
  8. Chair of Book Studies Erlangen: Homepage
  9. ^ Book Studies Munich: Homepage
  11. ^ Center for Book and Publishing Studies St. Gallen: Homepage
  12. to Gerard Piccard: Homepage
  13. Watermark Information System: Homepage
  14. see mapping on the portal Kleine Fächer