Archives for the month of: July, 2012

This story has been popping up for the past few weeks, and I had begun to decide that it had to be a hoax. However this link, including as it does a slick video make the hoax idea seem untenable.

It looks like it really is ink, not toner. I had though of toner and digital printing, as you could at a pinch do the printing with the lights off. If the ink starts to disappear when exposed to light, doesn’t the exposure it gets running though the printing press count? This would mean not just that the type begins to vanish after you have opened the page, but that it is wasting away all the time it sits unsold in the warehouse. A demand planning nightmare, giving a dramatic new emphasis to the desirability of avoiding excess inventory.

I suppose I can think of books I disliked enough to think that I wouldn’t mind if the type disappeared off the page after I’d finished reading. If the book is really so bad that it’s guaranteed to qualify for that category, why would I buy it? I see the desirability of first-time authors getting their books read, and even read quickly, but surely nobody’s reputation is going to be enhanced by a blank book.

We are talking about lead as in the metal, not lead as in leader of the pack. The first leader in The Times may or may not be well leaded.

Leading is interlinear space. It is so named because in the days of hot metal it often did indeed consist of a strip of metal, a lead, inserted between lines of type. After a while people figured out time and money could be saved by casting, say, 10 point type on a 12 point body, so that the “leading” was built in to the type itself. Obviously now we have moved into a world of digital production, leading, while it still maintains its importance, has no longer anything to do with metal.

Why do we need it? Different typefaces have different ratios of x-height to “gauge” (the overall distance between the top of the ascenders and the bottom of the descenders), so they will look different when assembled into lines and pages. The same typeface set on a line length of 17 picas will read differently from the same size of type set on a 27 pica measure (= line length). The problem designers would be trying to avoid by adding leading is “doubling” (reading the same line twice). This would occur when the eye fails to pick up the start of the next line because each line is so long and close to its neighbor that we get lost on the way back to the left hand margin. Too much space between the lines can also cause the same confusion.

This is all an aesthetic as well as a practical judgement. Usually a designer is under pressure to fit the book into as few pages as possible. Setting text in 11/13 Bembo on a 25 pica measure may look nice, but clearly you’d fit more lines and many more words onto the page if you changed it to 10/11 Bembo with a 27 pica measure. At that line length though, you might be reaching the limits of readability, because of the doubling risk. [10/11 is shorthand for 10 point type with one point of leading; or 10 point type on an 11 point body.] Juggling font, type size, leading, measure, and number of lines per page is what designing books is all about.

Despite the push for economy which we are all subject to, it is surprising perhaps how few books turn out to be hard to read. I’ve experienced one or two books where I found the typesetting a distraction for this sort of reason: but I’ve always ended up wondering whether the distraction was really just waiting there to pop out because the writing was so poor that one ended up bored and looking for anything to hold the attention. I do believe that if the subject matter is compelling nothing will get in the way of our reading it. The fact that many of us happily read books on a cell phone where aesthetics are not a primary consideration perhaps indicates that typographical tolerance is fairly widespread.

In matters of book design, especially for information about letterpress days, I can recommend Hugh Williamson’s Methods of Book Design, first published in 1956 by OUP, and then in a 3rd edition in 1983 by Yale University Press. Hugh was head of The Alden Press in Oxford when I was first involved in book manufacturing and was a delightful, intelligent, and cultured guide to the wonders of good book making.

See also Leading example.

This turning pages book fountain in Budapest was featured on the Read & Feed tumblr of Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo. (Delivered via Shelf Awareness 13 July, 2012)

Is it the ultimate in literary immortality or is it vanity gone wild? Or is it just crazy? A printer is being asked to print a book with ink containing the author’s DNA. Whether there are any technical problems involved I don’t know. But apparently DNA inks have been around a while — here’s an article from the New York Times in 2000, about DNA ink being used to authenticate souvenirs from the Sydney Olympics. And this Yahoo piece is from 2007: we must have missed out on the trend for authors to send their finger nail clippings to their publishers for incorporation in the ink for their books. (Maybe there’s more to be said for ebooks than the defenders of print first thought.) Nissha Printing Company goes into some detail, and is focussed on DNA ink’s use as a security/authentication mechanism.

I am certainly noticing that it has become much easier to abandon an ebook that I ever found it to be with a printed book. Not that abandoning a book in the middle of reading it is necessarily a good thing, but perhaps I’m getting to the point where “so many books, so little time” begins to mean a bit more. In a recent interview Colin Powell said that he’d probably bought more ebooks than he’d easily be able to find time to read — it’s just so easy to respond to the impulse and click that Buy button. To some extent I’m a victim of the same impulse — though still being a Scot, I do favor the free download over the paid one!

The piece below is copied from Shelf Awareness of 2 July, 2012. I’m not sure that I would be more likely to read non-fiction in fits and starts that fiction: I suspect that if I stop I stop — but I guess we can see why the plot might keep you going in a work of fiction, more than in a work of history say.


Reading E-Reader Readers

It’s like an old Soviet joke: in brave new digital world, you do not read e-reader, e-reader reads you.The Wall Street Journal details how e-reader makers are monitoring reading habits of consumers. “The major new players in e-book publishing–Amazon, Apple and Google–can easily track how far readers are getting in books, how long they spend reading them and which search terms they use to find books. Book apps for tablets like the iPad, Kindle Fire and Nook record how many times readers open the app and how much time they spend reading. Retailers and some publishers are beginning to sift through the data, gaining unprecedented insight into how people engage with books.”In the case of Barnes & Noble, which focuses on groups of readers rather than individuals, “data collected from Nooks reveals, for example, how far readers get in particular books, how quickly they read and how readers of particular genres engage with books.”The company has found that “nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts, while novels are generally read straight through, and that nonfiction books, particularly long ones, tend to get dropped earlier. Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start. Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books.”Jim Hilt, B&N’s v-p of e-books, told the Journal that the company is starting “to share their insights with publishers to help them create books that better hold people’s attention.” It has also introduced shorter nonfiction works called Nook Snaps on “topics ranging from weight loss and religion to the Occupy Wall Street movement.”For its part, Amazon, which has Kindle users sign an agreement allowing it store information from the device, “can identify which passages of digital books are popular with readers, and shares some of this data publicly on its website through features such as its ‘most highlighted passages’ list. Readers digitally ‘highlight’ selections using a button on the Kindle; they can also opt to see the lines commonly highlighted by other readers as they read a book. Amazon aggregates these selections to see what gets underlined the most. Topping the list is the line from the Hunger Games trilogy. It is followed by the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice.”

The trend, of course, raises many issue concerning privacy even as many welcome finding out more about readers’ habits. The article goes into great detail on the subjects.

Under U.S. law copyright vests automatically in your book once it is fixed in tangible form: you don’t have to do anything. Even printing the © copyright symbol  is optional. Registration of your copyright with the Copyright Office does however enable you to act promptly in case of an infringement. Whether you think this worth the $35 fee depends of course on how you value your work. The potential for infringement might not be high, and you might well decide not to chase down anyone who “steals” your copyrighted material. One might regard such a theft as the sincerest form of flattery. However most publishers, I think it’s fair to say, do go through the step of registering their books with the U. S. Copyright Office.

If you do decide to register, this post by will walk you through the process.

What is this — a trend?

“If You Love to Read”, from New York State Reading Association — click here for Song 1

Song 2, “A Shop with Books in”:


Song 3, “The day I read a book, by Jimmy Durante

Song 4, Eerdman’s Christmas promo

Song 5, Common Good Books appeal to local purchasers