Archives for the month of: January, 2017

img_0454A photo is flopped when it is reversed. Think of the negative. Think of looking at it from the wrong side. The guy sitting there is now on the left, not the right. Maybe this works better in your design, so off you go. (Not sure it makes any aesthetic difference here though.)

But, oops, you forgot about the newspaper sticking out of his briefcase. Less obvious perhaps is the fact that breast pockets on men’s suits are generally positioned over the heart.

This error could result from a lack of care, but knowing what I do about publishing operations I’d bet that it happened because of a last-minute rush. The photo they had originally selected was found to be unusable after the job had been sent off to the printer (maybe they’d failed to get permission) and this one’s what they were able to locate at the last minute. Make up the new mechanical, and off it goes. Bang, bang; done. No time to check it, unfortunately.

Anyway, I think this guy looks a bit too delicate and polite to be Richard Hannay. Maybe I’m too influenced by the movie versions, though I do hate such ones as I’ve seen. Hannay has his own Wikipedia page.

This book doesn’t contain short stories you’d never realized existed. The “Stories” are in fact the five novels in which Richard Hannay stars: The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, Mr Standfast, The Three Hostages, and The Island of Sheep.



Here’s a nice use of a flopped photo, tweeted by Orkney Library.


We say measure but we mean line length. When you read a book, the type measure is the length of the text line, measured in picas.

Well, of course one could imagine a page where the measure isn’t the length of the text line — say this one! — the measure here goes from the left margin (i.e. the start of the word Measure in the title) all the way to the right hand margin (which is pretty much undetectable here as all the lines, being ragged right, unjustified, finish at different points. The two rules above the title show the measure.) So here the text has a line length of say 25 picas, while the full measure is 38 picas. In other words (words that a printer or designer would use in speccing a job) each line of text is indented 13 picas left on a 38 pica measure. (These numbers, while they are more or less an accurate reflection of reality on my iMac, should not be taken as literally accurate. The actual measure you are looking at will depend on how the device you are using is displaying the page.)

It’s for reasons like that explanation that printers have needed the word measure. We don’t do it to confuse: quite the opposite — to make unambiguous cases where confusion might easily arise.

And bear in mind that as with so much in our business the terminology originates in the hot metal/letterpress world. With hot metal type the blank spaces are not the absence of anything: they are the presence of metal spacers which are lower than type height, so that when the type is inked these lower parts receive none of the ink and therefore print blank. You can see the lower parts around the centered lines in this illustration.

Ems and ens is also relevant here.

This picture is from MIT’s Reading 17.



Click on it to enlarge enough to be able to read the labels.

Not much more to say about this really. I didn’t know about the tittle, and am not sure I altogether understand about the Ascent line, though it is defined at Typography Deconstructed.

Here is Aaron Swartz (1986-2013) setting out his case.*

OK, OK. These are attractive ideas, and Reed Elsevier is an almost irresistible target. But scandal? Slow down. Of course there’s a powerful case to be made for free speech, but what clouds the issue is the problem that “free” as well as meaning unconstrained, liberated, available without restriction also means without payment. Lack of censorship is something we can all get behind: lack of payment is a bit more problematic, whether you think Elsevier is guilty of overcharging or not. (A separate issue, I think.)

Digital enthusiasts seem to me to have a built-in tendency to overstate their case. To them computerization is so obvious, so intuitive, and so straightforward, that they fail to consider the effects of hundreds of years of evolution in the publishing business, some of which may be ripe for revision, but much of which still works well. It may be terrible that Indian researchers cannot afford to subscribe to JSTOR or to Elsevier’s journals, but it could only become a problem once we had an on-line record which holds out the possibility of easy access. Long before we had the Internet, and any conception of world-wide distribution of academic content by any means other than the old-fashioned way involving printing presses and cargo ships, most scholars had little access to the majority of scholarship. Consider an Erasmus, going from country to country in order to visit the libraries where the books he wanted to look at might be found. Nobody would deny that it might be a good thing if everyone throughout the world could access every journal article ever written, but just asserting that and then helping yourself free of charge isn’t really a viable business model.

Another argument which actually has less force than at first might appear is this appeal to the fact that the poor academic, having slaved away creating this important bit of research has it whisked away from him at the last minute by rapacious publishing companies. Keeping that argument in your mind, consider the other argument made about how we taxpayers have paid for this work beforehand, by paying the salaries of these toilers in the groves of academe. By writing their journal articles, as part of their job, assistant professors become more likely to be considered for promotion. The two arguments cancel one another out. I don’t altogether buy either of them.

There just are costs involved in making research available on-line and surely those businesses which have laid out the funds to create the potential for such distribution can legitimately be said to deserve remuneration. After all, that’s why they created their service in the first place. These are still early days — one of the problems is I suspect that computer people just work at a faster refresh rate than book people and are thus more intolerant of perceived delay — and we have yet to evolve a method of transitioning from the old way of doing things to some new way. One method being tried is providing funds for “publication” as part of the grant funding the original scientific research. This can work in the sciences, but is hard to apply to the humanities: there are not by and large too many companies out there queueing up to fund research into medieval French poetry. The search for a general solution continues. Maybe we’ll never come up with a good answer: maybe the printed book actually has got a lot to recommend it, though of course the Indian scholar without a JSTOR subscription would still have to be able to locate a copy.


* Link via Big Think. This is a brief clip from a documentary film, The Internet’s Own Boy which can be found at YouTube.

In printing a rule is a line, though of course there are also rules in the conventional sense that printers follow. Think for example of Hart’s Rules for Compositors and Readers at the University Press Oxford. Although the book doesn’t contain rulesª directly about rules, it does include plenty of reference in its rulesª to the appropriate use of rules, for instance in its rulesª about setting rules in tables.

Rules, in their manifestation as straight lines, are measured in points or fractions thereof. We tend to talk of the weight of a rule, not its thickness. The rules at the top of this page might be 1 point rules “printing” in 50% black, though translating from screen to print is nonsensical because of variable rendering. As a ruleª these rules will look different on your iPhone, than they do on your iPad, or on your desktop computer.

One should bear in mind the related manifestation of rule: this is an en rule – and this an em rule —. In well-mannered typesetting these will be set with a word space on either side of them. This may be a British ruleª rather than an American one though.

Of course the one ruler will rule them all, which hints at the derivation of the printer’s straight line. After all printers have other uses for the word line. The OED informs us that the phrase “rule and line” means determined or regulated, rigid or strict. Apparently the word rule used also to refer to riotous conduct especially in north England and Scotland, where we love such activity.

This was no doubt fun to do.

Whether it will really lead to a good result is perhaps a bit less clear. Still, if you don’t try, you definitely won’t succeed. You can find the White Paper Mr Humphreys alludes to here. They solicit comment, so go ahead.

For my part I can’t see past the problem of inertia in the academic process. In some ways it would be great if all monographs could be accessed using tools like the JSTOR Topicgraph, but until e-books are acceptable in tenure decisions, there’s going to remain a bias in favor of the printed book. The White Paper alludes to this as a problem, and of course it’s not this group’s problem to solve, so unsurprisingly they offer no solution. However I cannot really imagine that we will not eventually get to that goal. Another inertia problem is the varying openness of publishers to having their books shared in what is aiming at being a gigantic interoperative database of academic work. DRM inhibits the sorts of sharing which are so basic to the initiative. Can publishers overcome their need to generate funds to support their individual businesses, and figure out a way to share all, or are we doomed to keep on regretting the tragedy of the commons?

Illustration: Bookmobile

Illustration: Bookmobile

This is a slightly sneaky way of saving money. The endpapers (shown in purple in this illustration) which are tipped to the first and last signatures of a hardback are the main way of holding the book block into the case. If you lay out the book so that there are blank leaves at the front and at the back, you can eliminate the endpapers and save the money by just pasting these blank leaves to the boards of the case.

The book will be a little weaker — the endpapers tend to be a heavier, stronger stock — though on the other hand the connection between the self end and the book block is more fundamental — the “endpapers” are part of the first and the last sigs, not just pasted to them.

Obviously using self ends means you can’t use any kind of fancy endpaper, colored as in this illustration, or printed with a useful map or whatever. We didn’t often do it, and when we did it was on smaller books on which last minute cost savings had become necessary.

As far as I can discover the use of the term “Conrad” to designate 800 words of writing at a sitting is private to Will Self — but, who knows, maybe his chums all talk in such units. Maybe they say a “Delderfield” to indicate the pinnacle of 10,000 allegedly reached daily by long-distance writer R. L. Delderfield, or a “London” for the 1,000 Jack London’s said to have generated daily. (Though this chart credits him with 1,500.)* On the street the word (apart of course from designating The Secret Agent‘s creator) appears to mean some kind of cool dude. Mr Self — can he really be content to be described as scabrous — is quoted at TeleRead as attributing regular morning Conrads for his success as a writer. He can dash off 500 words an hour in his journalism (and I’ve noted some over-hasty journalistic writing of his) but when working on a novel can only do 1.25 Conrads (i.e. a London) in a morning, which maybe we can assume to be four hours, and thus half his unbridled rate.

I dare say the rate is less important than the regularity. The more you can make your writing a regular process the less likely you are to succumb to distractions such as writer’s block. If you only write when you’re inspired — well, you have to sit around until inspiration descends upon you.


* I admit that the differences between the various sources merely indicates the stupidity of trying to measure such an obviously unmeasurable quantity; a quantity whose inherently variable value has in fact invariably no inherent value.

imagesAccording to The Independent, President Obama recommended 79 books to us in one way or another. The total is really more than that: although Self Reliance, Team of Rivals and All the Light We Cannot See are in the list twice, there are several series listed as well which must inflate the total well beyond a hundred.

My earlier post POTUS picks links to yet more book recommendations President Obama made to us. The guy could sure read fast. There are also links in that post to his conversations about books with Marilynne Robinson.

Whatever the number of books he recommended, we should be grateful on this Inauguration Day to have had such a well-read and thoughtful president. The 45th President will probably not be recommending books. Tweets seem to be his favored medium: so sad.

The Independent‘s list is as follows:

1. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan

2. H Is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald

3. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

4. Seveneves, Neal Stephenson

5. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

6. All That Is, James Salter

7. All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

8. The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert

9. The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri

10. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

11. Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow

12. Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison

13. Moby Dick, Herman Melville

14. Shakespeare’s Tragedies

15. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch

16. Gilead, Marylinne Robinson

17. Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson

18. The Bible

19. Lincoln’s Collected Writings

20. Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois

21. Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson

23. Gandhi’s autobiography  (#22 is missing from the list)

24. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren

25. Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam

26. The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton

27. Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith

28. Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

29. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

30. The Quiet American, Graham Greene

31. Working, Studs Terkel

32. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer

33. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

34. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

35. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston

36. Redwall series, Brian Jacques

37. Junie B. Jones series, Barbara Park

38. Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson

39. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

40. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

41. Nora Webster, Colm Toibin

42. The Laughing Monsters, Denis Johnson

43. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, Evan Osnos

44. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Dr. Atul Gawande

45. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, Katherine Rundell

46. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan.

47. The Hardy Boys series, Edward Stratemeyer

48. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

49. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

50. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

51. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

52. Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin

53. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

54. Various writings of Reinhold Niebuhr

55. Lush Life, Richard Prince

56. Philosophy & Literature, Peter S Thompson

57. Collected Poems, Derek Walcott

58. Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

59. To the End of the Land, David Grossman

60. Lessons in Disaster, Gordon Goldstein

61. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris

62. John Adams, David McCullough

63. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

64. Plainsong, Kent Haruf

65. The Way Home, George Pelecanos

66. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution, Thomas L Friedman

67. What Is the What, Dave Eggers

68. Netherland, Joseph O’Neill

69. Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, Jeffrey D. Sachs

70. Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, Jonathan Alte

71. FDR, Jean Edward Smith

72. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, Steve Coll

73. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, Larry Bartels

74. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin

75. Fates and Furies, Lauren Goff

76. Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling

77. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie

78. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

79. The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin


Just because many many kids love video games doesn’t have to mean that publishers should find lessons for their business in the games world does it? Michael Pietsch, CEO of the Hachette Book Group, did imply that we could learn from the games business in his talk to the Book Industry Guild of New York on 10 January, but I can’t really get my mind around this connection. (See Gaming! where I have ranted on this before.)

The movie business can almost not survive without books. Does this mean publishers have to mimic movies, whatever that might mean? The book commentariat have internalized the knowledge that we don’t need to bother to learn anything from the music business because of course we know they have suffered death by digital (which of course turns out to be nonsense). Just because kids play games doesn’t mean books should become game-like. What likelihood is there that a manic game player is going to shrug off the addiction and start reading books because they’ve found one with a few virtual reality features? No doubt there are a few books which might benefit from a bit more playfulness, but if you want to get into the games business, why not get into the games business? We are in the book business. Books are not games, and they are none the worse for that. When I was a youth I was wildly keen on rugby football. Nobody suggested that book publishing could learn from my enthusiasm and maybe turn reading into a team activity involving extreme physical contact. (Though I must say Book Shout seems to be attempting a bit of this by obsessively sending me daily e-mails telling me how I’m doing in my apparently competitive reading of Tony Judt’s Postwar: I keep getting told how I’m matching up against my daily target of 6,389 words — where did that number come from? If I hadn’t paid for the book I’d trash the app.! Are there really people out there who read in order to meet their daily word count, rather than to find out what the book says?)

Joe Wikert asks us to stop and consider how our static pages can be brought to life. I’ve considered it and the idea makes me want to throw up. I like my pages static thank you, and I cannot but believe that most book readers do too. Whizz-bang diversions are just diversions however exciting they may be. If you love to explore the sorts of VR things Mr Wikert is advocating, I did post some links a couple of years ago. While I suppose there might be a few virtual reality applications in the educational market, by and large books are for reading, and readers seem to be perfectly happy doing that. Just because there are ways of gussying up the process is no reason to do so. After all we still occasionally use our legs despite the invention of the bicycle.

See also Lessons from other media.