For some historical perspective regarding that question, courtesy ofÂ Wired: “The Hidden Link Between E-Readers and Sheep (Itâ€™s Not What You Think)” —
“Itâ€™s easy to figure out why e-readers and tablets are the size that they are: Theyâ€™re all about the size of paperback books, whether trade (iPad) or mass-market (the Kindle 3). Some oversized models, like the Kindle DX, are closer to big hardcovers. But why are books the size that they are? It turns out itâ€™s because of sheep. Sheepskin, to be exact.”
Parchment, by virtue of its availability and durability,Â has a long history with book-making (here’s a nifty BBC video on how parchment was made, for those that are interested).Â Since 1 sheep >>>>> 1 sheet of parchment, a sheet of parchment was thus the size of a sheep. Book-size naming conventions derive from the number of folds of said sheep skin:
“Fold a sheet of parchment once (two leaves/four pages per sheet) for aÂ folio; if you fold sheets of paper once without a cover, youâ€™ve got a tabloid.
Twice for aÂ quartoÂ (8pp/s), the size of a big dictionary or big laptop;
Three times for anÂ octavoÂ (16pp/s), a hardcover or Kindle DX;
Four times for aÂ duodecimoÂ (24 pp/s), a trade paperback/iPad
Four times (a slightly different way) for aÂ 16moÂ (yes, they gave up), aka mass-market paperback/e-reader;
Five times for aÂ 32mo, aka notepad/old-school smartphone sized
Six times for aÂ 64mo, or as Erasmus called it, a Codex Nano.”
Interesting, no? I’m still wondering, from the title of that Wired post — what were we supposed to be thinking?
For more background context, be sure not to miss the excellent post from GotMedieval.com (“Why are books so big?“), beginning with a question about the size of medieval books, and leading to our question of interest about the origins of the size of books, in general —
“The question then becomes, I guess, why were medieval books the size they were? Â And the answer to that is simple: medieval books were the size they were because medieval sheep were the sizeÂ theyÂ were. Â Remember, paper wasnâ€™t the original medium for page-creation. Â Medieval books were constructed of parchment, which is a fancy word for sheep or goat skin (and primarily sheep skin, because there were a lot more of them around) …”Â