I'm looking for a single word which would represent all of the things that one might read, such as books, academic papers, magazines, or even online articles if possible.

The only thing that comes to my mind is a readable (something that can be read), but that doesn't feels like a word one would use.

  • 4
    I think you're looking for literature.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 21, 2015 at 22:19
  • @DanBron Does this include academic writings as well? My understanding from looking in a dictionary is that literature is for creative/artistic writing. Feb 21, 2015 at 22:26
  • 2
    Yes indeed it does. In fact the standard term for academic writings in a given fIeld is "the literature".
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 21, 2015 at 22:27
  • 5
    Literature is focussed and reviewed, or at least subject to some critical pressure. The general term is text, which can either refer to an individual chunk of writing (plural texts) or the phenomenon of producing understandable letters in a row. Feb 21, 2015 at 23:07
  • 1
    Do you then need something that covers written languae in any form? Would this include then handwritten notes and letters, graffiti, little sticky notes, shopping lists, email, and instant messages?
    – tchrist
    Feb 22, 2015 at 2:12

7 Answers 7


The word literature is not restricted to Shakespeare, Poe, or to concepts you were enlightened on while reading for an "English Literature" diploma.

The word is used in the industrial, commercial and technical aspect as any material that you would read. For example,

  • Please read all literature for which I have provided the links, before the next C# class. Some of them are in the form of blogs.

  • There seems to a whole lot of trashy literature in the dentist's waiting room.

  • I am glancing over the literature you have provided, including Anna's illogical analysis why the stock failed so abruptly.

However, in the technical and scientific realms, we seem to favour the words documents and documentation. For example,

  • There is insufficient documents and documentation on the system we have just fried.
  • Your team has not produced any documentation on the failure analysis of the production line debacle that occurred last week. We need you to document the failure to help us avert such failures in the future.
  • These are the incriminating documents that were discovered, which include internal emails.
  • This email and chat thread should serve as sufficient documentation for the tiny project we have just completed. It has documented every aspect and milestone of the project.

Frequently, the words document and documentation can be replaced by the more generic term literature. However, chat and email don't lend themselves too well to being classed as literature.

So to be safe, I would say documents and literature.

At management, they use the word information. But information is not limited to just reading, but also includes videos, charts, and other non-readable whatnots.

Therefore, I would stick to documents and literature.

  • In AmE we always use "literature" in scientific contexts. "I've searched all the literature on coronary heart disease and found no evidence...".
    – Centaurus
    Feb 22, 2015 at 13:01

"printed material" (or "printed matter") includes books, brochures, academic papers, magazines, etc. It does not include online articles, though.

  • 2
    printed material is not a single word though. Feb 21, 2015 at 22:26
  • @JakubArnold Yes, not a single word. But it's a phrase commonly used.
    – Centaurus
    Feb 21, 2015 at 22:29
  • Maybe just "print"...
    – anemone
    Feb 21, 2015 at 22:30
  • 2
    It also doesn't include books, magazines and academic writings if they come as e-book or similar.
    – Stephie
    Feb 22, 2015 at 0:24
  • 1
    What about written text like thank-you letters and ancient codexes?
    – tchrist
    Feb 22, 2015 at 2:14

Written Media would encompass both hardcopy (paper, stone tablets, wooden sign, etc.) and digital media, and would therefore be the best fit, given the asker's criteria.

Also, readable/-s would be an adjective firstly, although it could be made into a noun, as one might dp with edible/-s


Reading (n):

a book, article, etc., that is being read or that is intended to be read [MW]


German has the expression Printmedien and English has print media or printed media as well.


I think the term print media might also cover texts on computer screens or e-book readers as they are nothing but electronic representation of printed matter.


People read writing. Per Wikipedia, for example:

Writing is a medium of communication that represents language through the inscription of signs and symbols. In most languages, writing is a complement to speech or spoken language.

What is printed in a book, academic paper, magazine or even an electronic blog is fundamentally described as writing, no matter how it was prepared.

If a machine was used to create the written symbols, it still is referred to as writing.

Per The Free Dictionary:

Something written, especially: a. Meaningful letters or characters that constitute readable matter...


The corpus of readables is my library. It should be noted that Library is the word that is generally used in ebook software applications to indicate the collection of readable materials.

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