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Book vs. Handout: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 7, 2023
A book is a written work bound together for reading, while a handout is a sheet or pamphlet given for informational or instructional purposes.

Key Differences

A book is typically a collection of printed pages bound together and covered, intended for reading, often encompassing a wide range of subjects. A handout, however, is usually a single page or a few pages of focused information, distributed to supplement learning or provide instructions.
Books are often published in editions and can be found in libraries and bookstores, serving as a source of knowledge, entertainment, or both. Handouts are more ephemeral, often free and disposable, designed to be used for a specific event or presentation.
While a book may take months or years to write and publish, requiring a significant investment of time and resources, a handout is typically created quickly, to disseminate information promptly and efficiently.
Readers usually purchase or borrow books for comprehensive coverage of a topic or for narrative enjoyment, whereas handouts are received during specific occasions, such as workshops or classes, at no additional cost.
Books are made to last and be revisited, often becoming part of a personal or public collection. Handouts serve a temporary purpose, providing immediate reference and then often discarded after their use.

Comparison Chart

Physical form

Bound, with a spine.
Sheets of paper, often stapled or loose.


In-depth coverage, storytelling.
Quick reference, instructional guide.

Duration of use

Long-term use and preservation.
Typically short-term and disposable.

Method of acquisition

Purchased, borrowed.
Given freely, usually in an educational setting.


Broad or focused, but generally extensive.
Narrow, specific to a topic or event.

Book and Handout Definitions


A written work or composition that has been published.
His book on ancient history is used in universities.


A sheet or leaflet given to people to provide information or instructions.
The teacher distributed handouts for the class project.


A set of written or printed pages, usually bound with a protective cover.
She read the entire book in one weekend.


Information provided for the press or media.
The press received a handout detailing the event schedule.


To arrange for a place to be kept for use at a later time.
I booked a table at our favorite restaurant.


Material given freely to people in need.
The charity provided handouts to the homeless.


To register names or information, typically in a ledger or register.
The hotel clerk booked our information upon arrival.


A gift, especially one given by the government or an organization.
The government handouts were essential for disaster relief.


To officially charge someone with an offense.
The officer booked him for speeding.


An assignment or document given to students in a classroom.
We were given a handout with the key points of the lecture.


A set of written, printed, or blank pages fastened along one side and encased between protective covers.


A gift, as of food, clothing, or money, given to the needy.


An e-book or other electronic resource structured like a book.


A folder or leaflet circulated free of charge.


Are all books printed?

Most books are printed, but there are also audiobooks and eBooks.

Can handouts be digital?

Yes, handouts can be distributed electronically as PDFs or other digital formats.

What is the usual purpose of a handout?

Handouts provide concise information or guidance on a specific topic.

Are handouts copyrighted?

Handouts may be copyrighted, depending on their content and usage.

Do books have authors?

Yes, books typically have authors who are credited for the content.

How long do people usually keep handouts?

Handouts are often kept only as long as needed for reference.

Is a textbook considered a book or a handout?

A textbook is considered a book.

What is the difference in length between a book and a handout?

Books are generally much longer than handouts, which are brief by comparison.

Do handouts contain advertisements?

Some handouts may contain ads, especially if they are distributed for free.

What materials are books typically made of?

Books are usually made of paper, cardboard, and sometimes leather for the cover.

Can a book be a handout?

A book can be used as a handout if it's given for free for informational purposes.

Are handouts always free?

Typically, yes, but some may have a cost associated with them, especially in professional settings.

Are books considered more valuable than handouts?

Books are often valued more for their content and physical quality.

Do handouts replace books?

No, they serve different purposes and are often used together.

Can books be interactive?

Some books, like eBooks, can have interactive elements.

Can a book be considered a source of authority?

Yes, especially if it is well-researched and written by a credible author.

Can handouts be personalized?

Yes, handouts can be tailored for specific audiences or events.

Are handouts effective for learning?

Yes, they can be very effective when used properly in an educational context.

Do books have ISBNs?

Yes, published books usually have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN).

How are books and handouts distributed?

Books are sold or loaned, while handouts are usually given directly to the recipient.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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