Archives for the month of: July, 2019

A woodcut will be printed by letterpress, a relief process, an engraving by an intaglio process. In relief printing the white needs to be cut away; in intaglio it’s the black which is cut away.

The Collation has a useful post telling you what to look for in that old book. The key is to study the detail: this example shows why.

You can engrave a clean sharp intersection between two black lines: it’s much harder to carve out a sharp white angle consistently to make the grid as sharp and regular in a woodcut.

Don’t be confused by the fact that a wood engraving carries the word engraving in its name. A wood engraving is basically just a wood cut executed on the grain end of bit of wood, usually boxwood, rather than on the side. A wood engraving will be printed letterpress just like a woodcut. See Printing methods for video demonstrations of the difference between relief and intaglio printing.

Shelf Awareness of June 28, 2019 included a column by Robert Gray under this title, now archived at his site, Fresh Eyes Now.

Mr Gray has been reading H. A. Pavey’s 1905 piece from the Chicago Daily Tribune exploring the question “Why Novel is a Success” [sic].

Mr Pavey basically ascribes the fog of uncertainty surrounding this question to the illogicality of women who make up the majority of buyers of novels! (He was writing in 1905.) He goes on, quietly changing to the masculine pronoun, describing a reader going into a bookshop and picking up a novel:  “Instinctively he opens it at the first touch. Type and paper will be expected to make the first appeal in the physical makeup. An attractive frontispiece and title page will be convincing, as will possibly well done illustrations. Then the scrutiny of the cover will follow.” This is all very flattering to those of us who have toiled on the physical side of the book business, but unfortunately it isn’t enough to seal Mr Pavey’s deal. “In the meantime the salesmanship of the salesman will be called upon as it so seldom is at the average department store’s general counters. For any book that is in demand, the salesman will have had his own brief lesson. He will have read the reviews of the book as far as possible; he will have run through it himself perhaps as closely as does the average reviewer; he has at his tongue’s end a striking situation or two of the situations needed to have made the work talked about and favorably reviewed.”

However Mr Gray concludes, along with Mr Pavey, that the reason for buying a book is different in each instance, and impossible to discover. “So, what’s the magic key to discovering why readers buy particular novels? . . . there is none.” If only we did know why people buy books we’d be in a much easier business: we could promote the books directly to the people who we know want them, and as a result we’d be able to judge ahead of time how many copies we ought to print in order to fulfill demand. (Certain types of academic publishing already approach this condition.)

Ultimately the ability to fulfill exact demand by print-on-demand will bring us close to this situation. This doesn’t mean that we’ll do it though. The temptation to get a lower unit cost of production (to increase your profit margin at a given retail price) will make publishers continue to gamble by filling warehouses with speculative stock. The best we can anticipate, at least until the book manufacturing industry withers away, is that we’ll use POD to fill the inventory needs of that famous long tail — the last few copies which dribble out over the years when the book has substantially been forgotten. Being able to fill demand exactly won’t, of course, tell us why this or that novel is a success, but as long as we can sell as many copies as possible publishers will perhaps not be altogether concerned with retail customer motives.

Two university press editors, Jennifer Crewe and Greg Britton, discuss what it is to work as an editor at this Public Books piece.

Their metaphor of choice for the editorial function is that of the hunter-gatherer. I’ve always preferred the idea of a kind of editorial Queequeg, fishing net in hand, standing at the bow of the boat, scooping up the flotsam — having judged at a distance whether it’s worth the effort of retrieving that particular pile of paper. Rather than the idea of editors wandering off into the bush turning over stones in the hope of finding something nourishing, I’ve always liked to think of them as being propelled through the water by the rather unheralded activities of the rest of the crew of the good ship “Publisher”.

Whichever image you chose, it almost goes without saying that we all rely on the success of our editors.

Robert Gray says in his Shelf Awareness column for 26 July that he wasn’t aware of this 37-minute film until Open Culture sent him a post. Neither was I: but it has been viewed over a million times at YouTube in the three months it’s been there. It’s certainly worth 37 minutes of your time. As well as touring a bunch of impressive bookshops, the narrator takes you on a journey of discovering how to read more books before you exit the scene.

If you don’t see a video here, please click on the title of this post in order to view it in your browser.

Publishing Perspectives has a piece on the new European Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market covering the use of copyright material online, and so does The Guardian (and doubtless Uncle Tom Cobley and All — so count me in). Wikipedia has a very full account of the whole business.

I suppose we should rejoice that the EU has introduced such regulation, giving member states a couple of years to provide legislation of their own to carry out the intention — if only because all the big tech companies appear to be strongly against it! The intention is to protect the earning ability of copyright owners by regulating the unreimbursed use of copyrighted material online. However, I wonder if this law, although targeted at the big fish, will end up applying to minnows like this one. It does seek to prohibit uploading copyright material without permission, which is probably exactly what I’m doing with the three links in paragraph one. No doubt nobody will notice even if what I am doing is wrong. But if a European government did object, I don’t see how I could prevent someone in Europe accessing this post, and I can’t see The Guardian being happy fielding regular requests from me for permission to quote.

The two “problem” clauses are Article 11 (now in the redraft actually Article 15) “sometimes called the ‘link tax,’ which will require companies such as Google to hold licenses for linking to publishers. Article 13 (now #17) meanwhile requires that Internet companies such as Reddit police their platforms for any copyright infringement uploaded to them, filtering out any offending content.” I guess I’m keeping fingers crossed that nobody is going to think Making Book is a company, and especially a company like Google or Reddit! Nevertheless there does appear to be room for concern: Cory Doctorow has written in a piece linked to in the Publishing Perspectives article “Worse, the final draft of Article 11 has no exceptions to protect small and noncommercial services, including Wikipedia but also your personal blog.” I dare say the intention of the law is not to penalize the personal blog, but laws have ways of spreading out form their original intent. The Directive does contain exemptions for “legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users”. Let us hope that individual nations will make note of such exemptions when the directive is finalized by being passed into law in all member countries over the next two years.

This Wired video, created before the final vote, goes some way to explaining things.

If you don’t see a video here, please click on the title of this post in order to view it in your browser.

There are definite earning and usage limits to which companies are covered by the law, but these may not be sufficient on their own to make your blog exempt.

“The protection provided through fair dealing legislation” (from Hugh Stevens Blog) is what I end up relying on, though I have to admit that that phrase sounds a lot better than the vague reality of an almost offhand clause in U.S. Copyright law.  But any claim that Making Book is all about education, criticism, review, parody, or any other transformative technique is surely rather dubious. In the end I tend to console myself with the thought that Making Book is not about making money, indeed does not make any money and has no mechanisms for doing so. I tell myself the ultimate fallback is that if any copyright owner comes after me I’ll just apologize and take down the “offending” piece. Whether this is an adequate legal response I doubt, but fingers crossed. Keith Houston at Shady Characters is a bit more thorough than me, but his is a more formal, business-like blog.

I’m not sure what to think of a court decision that embedding a Tweet can amount to copyright infringement. I’m not even sure what exactly constitutes embedding a Tweet, though I suspect I’ve done it on occasion. I’ll certainly not be including any pictures of Tom Brady, even if his working for a Boston team didn’t already preclude any such thing. I do bear in the back of my mind the need not to include recognizable representations of people in any of my photos I may be using. I know professionals spend time tracking down such individuals and getting their permission. Much of the concern around copyright and the web has to do with the big guys and the content aggregators, sites which (may) make money by copying and pasting or simply linking to content produced by others: the trouble is the cure may affect others too. Let’s hope not.

See also That’s not fair on the subject of fair use.

A short film (20 minutes) by Alain Resnais about the National Library of France, made in 1956:

If you don’t see a video here, please click on the title of this post in order to view it in your browser.

Notice that no computers were used in the production of this film or in the activities portrayed therein. This is how things once were: lots of formally-dressed employees carrying things back and forth. Contrast the NYPL’s book train.

The title reminds me of another French film, Tous les matins du monde, the film about viola-da-gamba virtuosos Jean de Sainte-Colombe and Marin Marais. Gérard Depardieu at his best before he disappeared into idiosyncrasy-land. The link to the library film comes from Open Culture.

We always referred to creases introduced in folding signatures as gussets. We even used it as a verb — gusseting. I cannot find dictionary confirmation of this meaning for the word. The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that a gusset is a sewing term (originating from some joint in a suit of chain mail) meaning a triangular bit of material spanning an awkward joint. Charmingly they reference “the scent of gusset” as underarm odor.

Gussets in your sigs were not an everyday occurrence. This is because they’d turn up in multi-fold situations, and 64-page signatures were pretty unusual in book work because folding a sheet of paper that often was quite hard as the thickness would bulk up. Accordingly they were found mainly in bibles, which were printed on light-weight paper. Here’s an example.

These gussets would normally show up in the inner margin, usually at the top of the page because the books were normally imposed so that that was where the closed folds would all be located. The problem was that air would be trapped in there, and prevent the pages lying perfectly straight on top of one another. Lighter-weight papers would not be heavy enough to overcome the air-lock. When the bolts were chopped off in the binding process the air would be released but evidence of the creases that had already been created by pressure in forwarding would remain.

This second case, from a book printed in 1931 by H. Wolff on a heavier stock (a 45# or 50# smooth offset sheet) probably results from some other cause like some maladjustment on press or in the folding process so that a tiny fold was introduced into the whole sheet. You can tell the crease arrived after the impression — the type is compressed at the edges as it turns over into the tiny fold. In other words if you opened out the fold you’d find ink on the inner surface.

You may also occasionally find evidence of a crease which was put into the paper before it went through the impression cylinder: here the type will be broken in two parts when you pull the crease apart. This is more frequently found in magazine and newspaper printing than in bookwork: mainly because the presses are run so much faster. These blank strips result from a maladjustment of the paper-handling rollers at the start of the press. The image is printed over the top of the fold, with no ink on the inner sides of the crease.

Shelf Awareness tells us about Book Club, a new bookshop coming to town. Books, wine, coffee — sound like a place to visit.

Shelf Awareness‘s July 17th story reads in full: Book Club, an independent bookstore featuring a café, will open this fall at 197 E. Third St. in Manhattan’s East Village. Erin Neary, who’s operating the business with her fiancé, Nat Esten, told EV Grieve that the book section of the storefront will carry a broad selection of adult fiction, nonfiction and children’s titles, as well as a variety of greeting cards and gifts. The cafe section will serve MUD coffee, among other items. The owners appeared earlier this week before Community Board 3’s State Liquor Authority committee to request a beer-wine license for the address.

“Our vision for the space is a cozy, living room vibe: a place where you can enjoy a nice glass of wine or coffee while reading a book, but also a place for the community to come together for various events, such as author readings and signings, and literary trivia,” Neary said. “As East Village residents for the last decade, we’re committed to having Book Club be a celebration of the spirit and diversity of the neighborhood.”


Mental Floss is careful to exclude religious texts (the Bible presumably wins hands down) though some might argue that their #1 bestseller of all time, Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book should be read with a dose of faith.

This example will cost you $750. Damn: where did I put my copy?

You can find Mental Floss’ carefully named list, Ten of the Best-Selling Books in History, here.

See also: 100 Years of bestsellers.

Well, here we go? Or is this just a desperation ploy? I suspect it may be the former: college education, certainly in the early years, seems to have jumped the barrier and gone pretty much fully digital. Pearson certainly hopes so, as reported in Publishers Weekly. “All future releases of Pearson’s 1,500 current U.S. textbook titles will be updated in digital versions only rather than in print”. This chimes with Pearson’s recent digital courseware moves. Apparently 62% of their higher education revenue now comes from “digital or digitally-enabled products and services”. Perhaps slightly ominous for the education purist is their claim that this’ll make their publishing program “more like apps, professional software, or the gaming industry.”

For Luddite students Pearson say they’ll be willing to rent a print book for about $60. It’s not clear how this assorts with their statement that they’ll update only their digital versions. I’d image the print version they offer to rent would be a print-on-demand edition made (one hopes) from the most recent set of files. But if so, why wouldn’t they want to sell the book rather than rent it?

Still, let’s look again in another five years. The market is no doubt big enough that Pearson can probably survive on a part of it even if their bet proves off the mark.

See also my rather dyspeptic Digital textbooks post from 2014.