Institut für Buchwissenschaft Erlangen
Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen/Nürnberg
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What is the Study of the Book?

A discipline with the word ›book‹ in its name needs some explanation. The book is commonly understood as merely a collection of printed sheets of paper with various contents that can be bought in a bookshop or borrowed from a library. However, the variety of material objects does not in itself define the discipline: Study of the Book has to define its object of research as a formal object, in other words, it has to name the specific perspectives from which the material objects are being investigated.

What does the Study of the Book investigate?

The book is a medium of text-based communication. Written media, from the scroll and medieval manuscripts to modern print media like books, broadsheets, newspapers, and magazines and their electronic forms, have played a significant role in the organisation of societies in past and present. Their purpose was – and is – to inform, educate and entertain, but also to communicate social values and norms. Research in the Study of the Book revolves around the question as to how and in which ways the respective objects have enabled and shaped communication directly and across time and space.


The Study of the Book in Erlangen explores the book as a medium of text-based communication in the past and present.

  • The analysis of the book as material object: which physical and functional properties do books have in various media?
  • Organizational analysis: the businesses, networks and processes that produce and distribute written media.
  • Institutional analysis: the government authorities, laws and regulations that support the system of text-based communication – or control and limit it.
  • The analysis of readers and reading: how do recipients read, and what are the processes of perceiving written media?

What are the methods and objectives?

The Study of the Book in Erlangen considers books in their cultural, economic and sociological dimensions. It is marked by an inter- and trans-disciplinary methodological pluralism that has its basis in hermeneutics and historical empiricism as well as economics, sociology and communication studies.

Research Projects (Examples)

  • Usability of digital information services (Usability von digitalen Informationsangeboten). Period: from 2012. Project management: Svenja Hagenhoff.
  • Designing Reference Models for the Publishing Industry: Period: from 2011. Project management: Svenja Hagenhoff.
  • The ›Melusine‹ of Thüring von Ringoltingen in German printing tradition, from approx. 1473/74 up until the 19th century. Book, text and image. Period: 2007–2011, supported by the DFG. Project management: Ursula Rautenberg.
  • Emergence and Development of the title page in the incunabula era and early years of printing. Internet publication on the title page of the incunabula period (Entstehung und Entwicklung des Titelblatts in der Inkunabel- und Frühdruckzeit. Internet-Publikation zum Titelblatt der Inkunabelzeit). Period: 2000–2002, 2003/04, supported by the DFG. Project management: Ursula Rautenberg.
  • b2i – The Portal for Library, Book and Information Studies (b2i – Wissenschaftsportal Bibliotheks-, Buch- und Informationswissenschaften). Period: 2007–2012, supported by the DFG. Project management: Ursula Rautenberg.