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In the PHB under The Book's Appearance the text give two examples of how a spellbook looks like a book and one example with it being just a collection of notes.

Does a Wizard's spellbook need to be a book? Can a spellbook look or even be something else rather than just a book?

For example, could it be a series of small scroll tubes tied together like a rope ladder?

A necklace of marbles where each marble was inscribed with a single spell?

Elaborate wood carvings on a puzzle-box?

Colourful tattoos on the backs of slaves? (I'm not saying it won't be awkward when a Dragon eats pages 21 to 34 when adventuring, just asking if it would be allowed.)

Runes on the faces of convex regular icosahedron? ;)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Spells carved onto the outside of a box, with a book full of gibberish inside it would be fun. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 5, 2018 at 21:14

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No, it doesn't need to be a book.

From the "Your Spellbook" sidebar in the wizard's Spellcasting feature (PHB p. 114):

Your spellbook is a unique compilation of spells, with its own decorative flourishes and margin notes. It might be a plain, functional leather volume that you received as a gift from your master, a finely bound gilt-edged tome you found in an ancient library, or even a loose collection of notes scrounged together after you lost your previous spellbook in a mishap.

The loose collection of notes says to me that it doesn't have to be a book. I remember playing with a wizard who had a metal ring with thin sheets of metal attached as his "spellbook".

After playing for over 30 years, while the norm is the spellbook, there have been many characters that have a used different things to go along with the feel of the character. Empower the character, don't limit.

As @Rubiksmoose points out, the "Spellbook" section on Xanathar's Guide to Everything p. 58 lists some other examples of unusual spellbooks, including:

Small stones inscribed with spells and kept in a cloth bag

and

Long straps of leather on which spells are written, wrapped around a staff for ease of transport

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    \$\begingroup\$ 3.X had distinct opinions on this as did several Dragon articles of old. Every table will vary and thus the DM makes the determination. You might include that last part. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Sep 5, 2018 at 18:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Xanathar's also has the Enduring Spellbook, which is fairly cheap (as a common it should run around 100 gp) and won't be damaged by fire or water. That could be a good way to model more resilient "spellbooks", like the one from 3.5e Eberron that's a crystal shard that shows your spellbook's pages in glowing markings (I mean, fantasy iPad really) or the aforementioned metal/stone/etc spellbooks. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 5, 2018 at 19:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ 3.X had a prestige class dedicated to tattooing one's self instead of an ordinary spellbook. There doesn't seem to be a hard limit on how far you can go for flavor. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 6, 2018 at 5:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is especially true in a more modern setting, since there's nothing stopping the wizard from keeping their spells on their spellphone. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 7 at 21:55

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