What Are Account Books?

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  • Written By: Christian Petersen
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2018
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Account books are records of financial transactions for an individual or business. Almost every business keeps these types of records, which get their name from an actual type of book, which, in the past, was most commonly used for this purpose. Today, these books may or may not be actual books at all, and are increasingly kept as electronic records. They often contain records of payments, expenditures, and accounts payable and receivable. A typical checkbook has a pad for recording deposits and checks written and is a simple type of account book.

Before the digital age, all account books were actual physical books, with pages set up for record keeping. These types of books are still available today. The pages are often laid out in grids, which allows for easy calculation of figures in groups. Depending on the entity using a particular account book, the grid of lines and columns may be arranged in any number of ways. Account books are bound in a special way so that when open, the pages lie flat to make writing in them easier, unlike many other kinds of books.


Most physical account books are kept with all information entered by hand, and the profession of bookkeeper is, by definition, someone responsible for making sure account books and the information they contain are accurate and up to date. Formerly, bookkeepers needed strong math skills, and neat handwriting was a must. These skills can still be valuable for keeping physical records, but the particular set of skills required for a bookkeeper has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Today, many bookkeeping positions require strong computer skills.

Modern account books are more often kept as electronic records than as physical records. Computers revolutionized bookkeeping, and in fact, the first spreadsheet programs were designed to emulate the form and function of old style account books. These programs perform many functions such as totaling columns of figures and tracking account balances automatically. These types of software do not make mathematical mistakes and are much faster at performing some tasks than any human could ever be. Keeping electronic accounts does have drawbacks, however, as computer networks can be hacked, sometimes crash or have other technical issues and often require special training for the bookkeeper.

The information kept in account books varies according to the needs of the owner. Typically, all financial transactions are recorded, including all income and expenditures. Many of these books have places where notes on these transactions can be made, in order to record the name of the other party involved and the nature of the transaction, such as payment for services or an expenditure for something like payment of a utility bill.



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