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. []

Manually editing ruby on Chinese characters in InDesign

WARNING: The following is exceedingly geeky, but I’m posting it here so that six months from now, when I’ve utterly forgotten how I did this, I can look it up. And who knows? Maybe someone else will want to know how to do this, too. Or will want to tell me I’ve been doing it all wrong.

Although the Chinese-owned publishing company where I now am managing editor mostly produces English-only books, occasionally I do have to deal with Chinese characters in InDesign. This week, I started working on a series of dual-language poetry books that were previously published in China, and I want to rework these into a single parallel-text edition for U.S. readers, particularly students. Fortunately, the Chinese edition was set in InDesign—this is not always the case—so I’m able to rework the files we received from the original publisher.
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E-reading application showdown, part 2: Typography

Early-twentieth-century photo of two women boxing

Cross-posted at Digital Book World. Part 1 is also on both this site and DBW.

When I first decided to try reading an e-book on my iPod Touch, I assumed—since I’ve been designing and typesetting book interiors for more than a decade and have strong opinions about what makes text readable and appealing—that poor typography would be my biggest complaint about the e-reading applications I tried. In the event, it turns out that as with print books, I’m much more tolerant of ugly, poorly set text than I expected. Just as I’m capable of losing myself in the pages of a cramped, blurry mass-market paperback if the story is one I want to read, so, too, can I block out consciousness of the less-than-ideal typography of an e-book viewed on a small screen. In fact, though I haven’t tried to empirically test this theory, I believe I might read novels faster on my iPod than I used to do on paper. Or maybe I comprehend better, or remember more of what I read.

Still, I’d rather have the option of making the text look good, and if an e-book’s appearance seriously offends me, I’m batty enough to crack it open and change it. I now actually get paid to do this, which sometimes feels like I’ve hit upon the best scam ever. (Other times, not so much. See below under anchovies.)

Continue reading “E-reading application showdown, part 2: Typography”

E-reading application showdown, part 1: Annotations


About two weeks ago, in a fit of pique, I posted some gripes about my current e-reading application of choice, which is Kobo for the iPhone/iPod Touch. I was pressed for time, so I didn’t provide any context, such as why Kobo’s is my favorite e-reading app, which apps I’ve chosen it over, and whether the things I find awesome and annoying about it are unique to Kobo or are universal across the e-reading–on–iOS world right now.

Here, finally, is the first in a series of posts providing that context. Specifically, I’ll be walking through five of the e-reading applications I’ve used on the iPod Touch, explaining what I see as the pros, cons, and OMFG-what-were-they-thinkings of each.

Continue reading “E-reading application showdown, part 1: Annotations”

“you will need to pick an attractive font”


An amazing opportunity! If only I were a cover designer . . .

Book Cover Designer Needed For Regular Work (Anywhere)

Date: 2010-09-13, 9:43AM EDT
Reply to:

We are looking for a book cover designer for regular work. Have 10 book covers that will need to get done immediately.

Note that we will provide the background to use for each cover, you will need to pick an attractive font (some will be provided) as well as colors to match the background, position the titles appropriately and make sure the PDF file meets our formatting requirements.

Thus, no original design other than text and minor boxes here and there will be required.

Will have regular work. Pay is $15 per cover. Will have dozens of them every week. Payment through Paypal.

The following are required:

  1. Ability to work fast and meet deadlines.
  2. Illustrator/Photoshop Skills
  3. Good eye for fonts/colors and the ability/passion for making beautiful covers
  4. Excellent communication skills and availability by Skype email.

If interested please email with:

  2. Resume.
  3. At least two relevant design samples
  4. A paragraph on why you think you’d be a good match for us.

Thank you for your time!

  • Location: Anywhere
  • Compensation: $15 per Cover (Paypal)
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

PostingID: 1951195804

(Spotted in new york craigslist > manhattan > jobs > art/media/design jobs by No. 2 Pencil.)

Photo: darts by sethstoll / Seth Stoll; some rights reserved.

Three More Days

Thesis Book 2010

This Thursday at 12:40 p.m., I have to publicly present some sort of something about my vague and fugitive master’s thesis. The talk—about ten minutes’ worth—will be streamed online so you, my friends, can all point and laugh, and the video will be archived somewhere (hopefully somewhere dark and offline) after the event.

Oy vey.

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out what the hell to say and show, and I’ve had to write a short description of my work for a (printed!!) book of my class’s thesis projects—a book that was, of course, laid out by me, who obviously had nothing better to do with my time. The following is the lofty prose I came up with, sometime between birds-tweeting-time and sunrise this morning:
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E-book Abomination Index

I’ve been reading a lot of e-books in the past ten days or so, and I have seen a lot of messy formatting. But the latest one takes the cake: a McGraw-Hill Professional book in which the first letter of every paragraph appears on a line by itself. Thus:

he quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Hella annoying. And there was an egregious typo in the book, repeated three times in one paragraph. Annoying enough that I dug around on the McGraw-Hill site until I found a place to lodge my complaint.

But then I got to thinking, as I filled out their lengthy incident report form, that if I want to report every fucked-up e-book I come across—which is most of them—I could spend the rest of my life chasing around on publishers’ websites for the buried feedback addresses or forms. And then I thought, Why not set up a sort of Hall of Shame where not only I but anyone else who finds a crappy e-book can post the gory details?

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the E-book Abomination Index submission form?
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Please, Mister Postman

post office

Oh, I think I need to make a field trip to the 11215 post office . . .

Dear Postmaster Potter:

I am writing to ask if you would please consider redecorating my local post office. Maybe you have heard of it: 11215. It’s the Park Slope Station in Brooklyn, New York, and I believe that a great many novelists spend time there, waiting to mail their manuscripts and galleys and quarterly estimated tax payments and whatnot, so perhaps it is the source of a great many written complaints. Or perhaps not. Anyway, may I elaborate on the nature of the problem?

The nature of the problem is choice of font.

Rudolph Delson, “An Open Letter to John E. Potter, Postmaster General” (PDF, 127 KB), February 12, 2007

Oh, but that is not the only problem, as it turns out. And these issues have been observed not only at the 11215 post office, as I’m sure many can attest. I particularly recommend the 10009 (Tompkins Square) location for psychotic signage (not to mention patrons).

I think I also need to get a copy of Mr. Delson’s novel, Maynard and Jennica.

(Via Manhattan Users Guide)