Note to self: Keeping my new inkjet printer alive

Back in October, I company-ized myself into an LLC, and on the advice of my travel guru Gil Saunders, I got a credit card that will give me 30,000 airline mileage points if I spend $1,000 on it within the first 90 days. So then, hmmmmmmmmm, what can my business spend $1,000 on, to get me half a trip to Paris?

Well, shifting my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription to annual and putting it on the card took care of more than half the challenge. :/

And then I replaced my inkjet printer, which—like every other inkjet I’ve ever owned—had died of infrequent use.

As anyone who’s owned an inkjet knows, if you don’t use it often enough, the heads dry up. Then you end up having to run the head-cleaning utility all the time, which wastes a lot of ink, and you have to replace the ink cartridges all the time, which wastes a lot more. And since printer ink is one of the most expensive liquids on the planet, wasting it is baaaaad. Besides which, eventually those underused nozzles get permanently gummed up, and the machine stops working altogether.
Continue reading “Note to self: Keeping my new inkjet printer alive”

One hour and eleven minutes of me trying not to swear

The awesome Laura Dawson invited me to do a webinar on the basics of book design, as part of a series for Bowker’s Our kindly hosts/co-presenters at Data Conversion Laboratory have posted a video of the session, so now you can follow along with bated breath as I try to remember not to say “fuck” for more than an hour.1 Can she do it? Watch the video to find out!

Because the video is video and my slides are about fiddly details, I’ve made my segment of the presentation into a PDF, so you can see what I’m talking about: “Making Beautiful Books” webinar slides (2 MB)
Continue reading “One hour and eleven minutes of me trying not to swear”

  1. Yes, my portion of the presentation ran about fifteen minutes too long, because I hadn’t timed it beforehand and couldn’t see my system clock while screen-sharing the slides from PowerPoint. Sorry, Allan. []

It ain’t up goer science

view of the ground from a rocket high in the air

After two years as a full-time e-book developer, I’m back on the print wagon—or, at least, one foot is—working for CN Times Books as (executive?) managing editor of print and digital production. CN Times is a wholly owned subsidiary of Beijing MediaTime Book Co., and about half of its staff members are Chinese, with several being located in Beijing.

Among the position’s more entertaining challenges is occasionally being called upon to explain industry jargon from printers’ estimates or freelancers’ invoices to colleagues whose primary language is not English. Last week, it was “jacket mechanical.” Today, it was “stock imagery.” And then I found myself writing an omnibus invoice-troubleshooting sort of e-mail explaining the varied uses of “manuscript,” “copy,” “proof,” “copyediting,” and “proofreading.”
Continue reading “It ain’t up goer science”


For anyone who uses print-on-demand outfits such as, or who has been considering doing so, Cathi points out the following brilliance:

Dear Lulu” is a test book researched and produced by graphic design students and Prof. Frank Philippin at Hochschule Darmstadt, Germany, during an intensive two-day workshop with London-based designer James Goggin (Practise). The book’s intention is to act as a calibration document for testing colour, pattern, format, texture and typography.

Exercises in colour profile (Adobe RGB/sRGB/CMYK/Greyscale), halftoning, point size, line, geometry, skin tone, colour texture, cropping and print finishing provide useful data for other designers and self-publishers to judge the possibilities and quality of online print-on-demand — specifically, with this edition.

The book’s price is set at’s exact printing cost per unit.

Continue reading “Calibrate!”

Prepress Gremlins: The Duotone Edition

Archipelago Books catalogs

Twice a year I lay out a cute little catalog for a publisher friend, and I’ve been doing it for four or five years, so the files have gone through several software upgrades. They were originally supplied to me as Quark XPress 4.1 docs, and I probably kept it that way for one or two issues before converting it to InDesign CS. Then the files upgraded to CS2, and then the fonts upgraded to OpenType. For the latest issue, I started the job in CS2 at home (hello, my name is India, and I am a late adopter) and then made the final round of corrections at my office, using CS3. Everything preflighted okay, and I sent the printer both PDFs and application files.

Two weeks later, I got an excited message from our rep at Kromar. They’d had some problems with the files, which they’d taken care of, but their prepress guy wanted to tell me about it. Ooh, curious! So I called back immediately, and the nice man in Winnipeg tried to explain to me what had happened.
Continue reading “Prepress Gremlins: The Duotone Edition”

A love letter to letterpress


Ampersand Duck is setting a book of poetry the slow way, and writing very affectionately about it.

You want the type to be invisible in a way, to let the meaning of the words exist independently. If a word is leaping out at you because it’s thick, dull and broken, it’s unfair to the reader. But the warmth of a handprinted page is delightful, ranging from dark greys to a dense black. It’s a small challenge for the spoilt eyes of a modern reader, to whom variety in print quality means the ink heads are a bit clogged, something to be fixed. It is the finite (and rapidly dwindling) number of letters that made me think about the preciousness of words set or written by hand. Poets are, by their nature, careful with words. It is a marvellous experience to get so intimate with a piece of writing. You may think your eyes and your mind caress a word as you read it, but imagine holding that word, piece by piece, and thinking about all its layers and nuances as you ease it into place (albeit upside down and back to front!).

(Sigh.) Sounds like fun.

Photo: proof_1 by Ampersand Duck; some rights reserved.

The Future of Paper

rolled paper

I realized the need for e-paper in 1989. At Xerox PARC, we had long predicted the advent of the paperless office, with the widespread adoption of the personal computer we pioneered. The paperless office never happened. Instead, the personal computer caused more paper to be consumed. I realized that most of the paper consumption was caused by a difference in comfort level between reading documents on paper and reading them on the CRT screen. Any document over a half page in length was likely to be printed, subsequently read, and discarded within a day. There was a need for a paper-like electronic display—e-paper! It needed to have as many paper properties as possible, because ink on paper is the “perfect display.” Subsequently, I realized that the Gyricon display, which I had invented in the early 70s, was a good candidate for use as e-paper.
(Nick Sheridon, “Father of E-paper,” interviewed at The Future of Things)

I confess that I print nearly everything I have to read for my job, even though I spend all day (and night, obviously) reading text—much of it far longer than half a page—from a computer screen. I try to justify this by saying that I need to be able to mark things up, and that I don’t print anything at home. (Because I can’t. Because my inkjet got gummed up and I’m tired of fixing it.) But I do often e-mail PDFs to myself and print them at the office. Have you ever tried to cook from a recipe on your laptop screen? It sucks, especially if you have limited counter space.

At least I usually print on both sides. Continue reading “The Future of Paper”

Designery People, Take Note:

Ampersand Duck has put up a pithy post about planning a printed publication, which is addressed to “aspiring artists and performers”—e.g., your friends and mine, who’re often asking if we can just help them design this little tiny promotional card or booklet or brochure, and then sticking us with an impossible deadline and budget, as well as worthless art and copy. And here is her story of why she was inspired to write the piece.

Sometimes you might get hit with poorly thought-out projects even at your day job, though of course I’ve never encountered such misfortunes myself.

I recommend that you write your own version of Ms. Duck’s how-to to address your own typical quick-and-dirty undertakings, and keep it handy to give to those talented friends when they inevitably ask you for help.