In Finance, what is a Display Book?

Malcolm Tatum

A display book is a tool used in many different market exchanges. The main functions of the book have to do with the timely recording of data relating to the execution of orders. Data of this type is typically arranged using several different criteria, including the type of order placed, the price associated with the order, the quantity of units involved, and the time the order is placed. Specialists who make use of a display book approach will often maintain books on each security that they trade.

Man climbing a rope
Man climbing a rope

One of the better known examples of a display book is used on the New York Stock Exchange. Usually referred to as the NYSE Display Book, the entries made into the record make it much easier to keep track of the current status of pending orders, as well as identifying when those orders are completed. This approach allows the order flow through the exchange to be managed with greater efficiency. Entries are made into the book concurrently with the feed of data via the consolidated tape that offers real time information on market happenings.

Other exchanges around the world also make use of the display book as a recording and tracking tool for exchange activity. In years past, there was more variance in how the data was arranged within the books. As new methods of keeping the records came into being, the need to standardize the arrangement of data become apparent. While there is still some difference in how information is recorded within the books associated with a given exchange, the formats are usually similar enough to allow interested parties to quickly locate the information needed.

Prior to the advent of computer technology, the process for maintaining a display book was a completely manual process. Each specialist associated with trading activity would make use of a simple notebook that was filled with pages arranged into columns. Entries regarding orders, including the date and time, the type, and the quantity were written into the columns as quickly as possible. This created a situation where a number of scribes or assistants were required to keep up with the constant influx of orders and make sure they were being executed in a timely manner.

Today, electronic books are the norm, allowing specialists to quickly shift from one display book page to another. There are software packages that can allow a specialist to post entries from one screen rather than flipping to different screens to enter different transactions. This has made it much easier to keep up with market activity, as well as be able to generate charts and graphs that capture data as it relates to trading activity on a security within a specified time period.

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