Handbooks, Manuals, Guide-books
We have a very large group of ready reference sources consisting of handbooks, manuals, source books and guide books. It is difficult to distinguish them from one another as they have common scope and identical purpose. These terms are used
synonymously as they have similar features. They are also known as compendia as they contain concise and comprehensive account of given fields of knowledge.
The word `handbook' is borrowed from German word ‘handbuch' meaning ' a small book or a treatise giving useful facts.' The literal meaning of the term `handbook' is the book which is 'handy' to use as it contains all sorts of facts and `handy' to carry it conveniently in hand. A `manual' is a corresponding word derived from Latin term `manuals'. It means a guide book, a compendious book, an abridged handbook or a concise treatise which can be referred for guidance in any occupation, study or art or . They are essential ready reference sources consisting of `facts to know' and `instructions to do'. They are sometime known as 'instruction books'.
They are usually single volume reference tools. All the handbooks may not be providing facts of popular interest. There are countless subject handbooks including articles based on research reports. In order to understand them it is essential to have basic knowledge of the subject. The information is provided in 'compact and concise form but illustrated by various diagrams, graphs, data, equations, formula, principles, symbols, procedures, tables. They have restricted scope because they deal with the minute details of the specialised subjects meant for a small group of specialists. In fact, they are valuable for their depth of information in a narrow subject field.
There is a rapid increase in publishing of handbooks and manuals. There are countless hand-books on specific subjects. With the growth of knowledge, they become out of date and revised editions have to be published. They are trustworthy and indispensable reference tools for libraries.