What is an artist's book?

This is such a simple question with such a complex answer. And that's precisely what makes artists' books so fascinating. Here's Simon's short answer:

Of all the questions that I have received regarding art, “What is an artist book?” is the most asked.  There are many answers to that question but I think I have a simple answer.  It is whatever the maker of the book wants it to be. 

In general artist books are some combination of art and words but often no words are included.  The artist's creativity  shows through in the message that is delivered by the scene that is created and often by the words that accompany the art.  The story is meant to tell itself but it is not often easy to translate.  Many artist’s books are small editions or one of a kind but they may also be published in significant larger editions.  I always look for the beauty of the art and the paper that is used as well as the binding. I also look closely how it is printed.  But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I have never met an Artist who did not want to make an Artist Book.

For more information, check out how these organizations have tackled the question: 

Smithsonian Libraries

Printed Matter, Inc.

Otis College of Art and Design Millard Sheets Library

Victoria and Albert Museum

Yale University Library

You can also try these great videos:

What is an artist's book? by Cal Poly Student Assistant, Rachel Scott

Artists' Book by Des Cowley, Manager of the State Library Victoria's Rare Printed Collections

Artist Book by Toledo Museum of Art

Make sure to take a look at visual artist and author, Angela Lorenz's answer to the question.