The future of publishing is here today!

wire-sewing machine

The oddest thing about the newly announced winner of Bookseller magazine’s annual Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year is not its title, The 2009–2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais, but rather that its author, Professor Philip M Parker of the French business school Insead, has produced more than 200,000 books,

thanks to his invention – and patenting – of a machine which writes books, creating them from internet and database searches in order to eliminate or substantially reduce “the costs associated with human labour, such as authors, editors, graphic artists, data analysts, translators, distributors and marketing personnel”.

I think the graphic artist–eliminating part of the machine may need a bit of work, since if the competition had been based on covers rather than titles, I feel certain that Fromage Frais, for all its charm, would have lost out to either Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring or Curbside Consultation of the Colon, which were merely shortlisted.

The 2009–2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring Curbside Consultation of the Colon

More: “Oddest Book Title prize goes to treatise on fromage frais” by Alison Flood, Guardian, March 27, 2009

Big Is Beautiful

la-rge-type

I like getting to play Dear Abby! Though lately my responses read less like sage advice and more like columns by The Non-Expert—only not funny. Yesterday Sarah wrote with some questions:

Since 2002, I have been editor for our local historical society’s 20-page quarterly. When I first started, I did it in an old version of WordPerfect and (you’ll laugh) actually cut and pasted together the booklet and took it to our local printer.

Then I got slightly more high tech and started producing PDFs from the WordPerfect files.

The next thing was a switch to the Atlantis program, which produces .rtf files, from which I made PDFs to send to our local printer.

So, I still have all the old .wpd and .rtf files.

The historical society is now interested in taking the old issues, indexing them, and publishing the old issues in books (putting several together per volume) or perhaps just putting the old issues online.

However, there is not much of a budget for new software. The new software would need to do indexing and be able to handle endnotes and read the old files.

I am looking at Serif Page Plus and SoftMaker’s TextMaker. Have you heard anything pro or con or about these programs?

As a side issue — I am also looking into producing Large Print versions of documents. It seems that there are all sorts of standards that different organizations have for producing large print books. Do you have any advice for what standard to use, and how to handle graphics for large print books (obviously the graphics need to be bigger, but I don’t know how much).

Continue reading “Big Is Beautiful”

Pinch on pages

Hawthorne page spreads

Pinch, a design office in Portland, Oregon, have* shared a summary of their typographic standards for Hawthorne Books, a literary press also in Portland. And while I very much like the house design they’ve come up with, I have a few quibbles with their write-up of same.

Pages are expensive, and here is where working with smaller press runs is helpful. Random House, for example, would have a big problem with running this little content on a two-page spread, because they are budgeting their books to the fraction of a penny—a meaningful amount when you’re printing a half-million copies. At 5,000 copies? Not so much, and frankly, this material—dedication, acknowledgements, epigrams—is important to the writer. To isolate it, to give it the weight it deserves, is again a function of respect to both writer and reader.

Now, I’ve never worked for Random House, but we had some pretty big print runs on some of the things I worked on at St. Martin’s. And I can tell you that the default front-matter pagination was just as airy and light as what’s shown in the Hawthorne spreads. Continue reading “Pinch on pages”

How to pick better fonts

golden section tattoo

How do you pick your fonts? It’s easy! Just look at type samples and find one that catches your eye. Throw that one out.

All this month, Tom Christensen of the always interesting Right Reading has been guest-blogging over at ForeWord magazine. For his final post, he offers “a simplified speed course in making books that readers will want to pick up”: “Book Design Primer.”

It’s very basic, as advertised, but he mentions a way of using the golden section that I’d never considered, so you, too, may learn something.

Continue reading “How to pick better fonts”

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

pond scum

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I should feel jazzed that a person I used to work with, who at that time did not know InDesign from Address Book, is still using my files as templates for new books today in his busy freelance design business. Being a spiteful, negative, unforgiving person, however, I instead find it just kind of disgusting. Because even though this person is apparently now making a nontrivial chunk of his income by designing and typesetting books (and perhaps double-billing for it, too), he clearly still doesn’t know typography from a hole in the ground.
Continue reading “Flattery Will Get You Nowhere”

MetaFilter Asks . . .

metal type

MeFi user Caduceus requests information about

Changing technologies in book design?
I’m looking for information about how new technologies have affected book design and typography.

I’m particularly interested in the affects of computers and design software, but information about how things like Print on Demand and ebooks have changed the status quo of book design would also be helpful. I’d be happy to be pointed to books, web essays, blogs, whatever information I can track down and dig through.

Kind reader Brian Winters directed Caduceus to this blog, but I don’t think there’s much here that addresses the question, since I started designing books relatively late in the digital age (around ten years ago, give or take). Most insight into such subjects around these parts comes from my more experienced visitors. So . . .

Should any of you more (or less! it’s MetaFilter!) informed persons wish to weigh in, there’s the thread. Of course, if you are, like me, too lazy to go register so that you can comment at MeFi, you’re welcome to deposit your thoughts here.
Continue reading “MetaFilter Asks . . .”

The Recipe for Success

Book Cake

Following up on the popularity of her copyediting report, Rose Levy Beranbaum has posted another interesting entry about the production of her forthcoming cookbook: Book Production Phase 7 Pre Design Meeting.

The designer’s estimate had the text running forty-two pages over the initial castoff, so there was a lot of discussion about how to make it fit. She’s posted her notes from the meeting, which give a you an idea of the complexity of cookbook design. Continue reading “The Recipe for Success”

A-lines are always in style

five A-frame designs from Print magazine's Flickr slideshow

Brainiac Josh Glenn takes issue with Steven Heller’s facile assertion that although “The human leg has evolved continually over many eons, adapting from an underwater propeller to its current form . . . on book covers and on film and theater posters, the leg has evolved very little.”

I hate to quibble with the master, since I’m a fan of Heller’s books. But this time he hasn’t put his best leg forward. Even a cursory glance at the leg-scenarios on display in Heller’s Print essay — and at Print Magazine’s A-Frame photoset at Flickr — indicate that the A-Frame is forever evolving.

The Flickr set is not entirely work-safe, but do check it out if nobody’s looking over your shoulder. Much excellence therein.

Now I just have to think of some excuse to put an A-frame illustration on the front of Nextbook.org . . .