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Category: publishing (Page 2 of 9)

Odd book titles of 2009

odd book titles: crocheting adventures with hyperbolic planes

The Bookseller is back with another round of odd book titles. This year the six finalists for the Diagram Prize for odd book titles are the following:

  • Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter
  • Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich
  • Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes
  • Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots
  • The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • What Kind of Bean is This Chihuahua?

As I mentioned before in this context, as the translator of Frozen Coagulated Cultures in Wine, Cheese, and Sauerkraut Production, I fail to see what’s so funny about these titles.

Rag or justified?

rag or justified? These are preliminary design pages for a new book about the art of Bali. The font is Garamond Premier Pro. The image is a cool piece by I Ketut Ngendon (1903–1948) called Goodbye and Good Luck to Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, 1938 (Batuan, Bali. Ink on paper. Mary Catherine Bateson).

The pages are the same, except that in one spread the main text block is ragged and in the other it is justified. I’m curious which version people prefer.

Stanford Professional Publishing Course Closes

After 32 years, the Stanford Professional Publishing Course has permanently closed. The decision reflects the constraints of the economic recession, but it may also signal a general retreat from a commitment to print publishing in the context of today’s online world.

I took the course in 1978 or thereabouts — I think it was the second year it was offered. I was working on my dissertation in comparative literature at the time. At the conclusion of the course I noticed an ad for a marketing copywriter with Jossey-Bass Publishers. I applied for the job and got it. I didn’t work at Jossey-Bass for long, but I did pick up the basics of book publishing and copyediting. The following year I began working as an editor for North Point Press, and I have worked in publishing ever since Thanks, SPPC, for derailing my academic career!

One could argue that with print publishing undergoing its current painful redefinition the course is needed now more than it was then. It looks like Martin Levin will be exploring new possibilities.

It seems I haven’t been keeping up

The New York Times recently issued its list of 100 notable books of 2009 — and I don’t think I’ve read any of them!

But it’s not like I haven’t been reading. What’s up with that?


Sites we like: The Art of American Book Covers

The first post at The Art of American Book Covers, by Richard Minsky, was made on August 26, so this blog is less than a month old. I regret that I don’t remember who directed me to it, but this blog is so rich in knowledge about techniques of book production that it makes me feel like an absolute novice. The blog will apparently focus on fine books of the nineteenth century. The image above is a detail from a book published by L. C. Page, who it seems offered each of their titles in red, white or blue cloth (wow!). Instead of stamping, a white cloth panel was glued onto the red and blue books. Following is a portion of the blog’s commentary related to this detail, but you should check out Minsky’s blog for the full story:

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Book titles then and now

A lot of people have weighed in with examples of book titles then and now over at kottke.org. These are some of my favorites:

Then: Book of Genesis
Now: FLOOD! A true story of heartbreak, heroism, and the will to survive

Then: Moby Dick
Now: Orca Obsession: How the Whaling Industry Is Destroying Our Sea and Sailors

Then: Romeo and Juliet
Now: The Teen Sex and Suicide Epidemic: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Your Family

Then: The Gospel of Matthew
Now: 40 Days and a Mule: How One Man Quit His Job and Became the Boss

And my own contribution:

Then: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Now: Chicken Soup for the Kitchen

 

Book vs. Kindle Smackdown

Green Apple Books — located right here in the Bay Area — has launched a ten-round battle between the book and the kindle. Who do you suppose wins round one?

Have the past twenty years been an aberration in the history of book publishing?

jost amman, the printerThat seems to be the argument that Douglas Rushkoff is making in the August 24 Publishers Weekly. I have described previously the corporate consolidation that has caused the largest book publishers in this country to be subsidiaries of foreign-based conglomerates. For about as long as I have worked in publishing that has been a pretty steady trend, and not a beneficial one to either writers or readers.

But Rushkoff believes that era is drawing to a close. He writes:

The book business, however, was never a good fit for today’s corporate behemoths. The corporations that went on spending sprees in the 1980s and ’90s were not truly interested in the art of publishing. These conglomerates, from Time Warner to Vivendi, are really just holding companies. They service their shareholders by servicing debt more rapidly than they accrue it. Their businesses are really just the stories they use to garner more investment capital. In order to continue leveraging debt, they need to demonstrate growth. The problem is that media, especially books, can’t offer enough organic growth—people can only read so many books from so many authors.

So begins consolidation. In order to achieve the growth shareholders demand but the businesses can’t supply, corporations embark upon mergers and acquisitions, even though, in the long run, nearly 80% of all mergers and acquisitions fail to create value for either party. The music industry is a prime example. In the 1990s, when Sony could no longer demonstrate growth commensurate with its share price, it bought Columbia Music. At the time, newly invented CDs were selling briskly and at margins higher than vinyl records. This was because baby boomers were replacing their record collections. Once that surge ended, artificial growth turned out to be negative growth. The centralization of recording companies and labels under a few corporate giants, meanwhile, favored the rise of large distributors and retailers and the decline of local, specialized shops. Blame Napster if you must, but the truth is that the retail music industry no longer had anything to offer that the Web couldn’t.

The same thinking led the conglomerates to hone in on publishing. Top-heavy, centralized bureaucracies know how to work with a B&N better than with a Cody’s or a Spring Street Books. And they applied their generic corporate management to a ragtag crew of book nerds, most of whom wouldn’t—and shouldn’t—know a balance sheet if their lives depended on it. Finally, unable to grow as fast as their debt structures demanded, these corporations have resorted to slashing expenses.

Read more of Rushkoff’s argument here.



Hanuman Maximon

I have been toying with the idea of starting a little imprint to publish mainly world literature and other titles with international scope. It would be called Hanuman Maximon. (Hanuman is the monkey hero of the Ramayana; Maximon is the cigar-smoking rebel saint of the highland Maya.)

This is a logo for the imprint. I haven’t really decided on the color scheme yet. Any reactions? (Hmmm, maybe the graphics part should be a little smaller.)

Publishers Weekly for sale

pw cover

Here’s your chance to prove your commitment to print. Purchase (the increasingly pointless) Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, or School Library Journal, all of which are on the block. Pay no mind to the fact that the information these magazines contain is now largely available on the internet.

Details at publishersweekly.com.

“In a related announcement, Tad Smith, CEO of RBI US, has resigned.”


Designing a book on Southeast Asian Art

Over at the Asian Art Museum blog I’ve written a post briefly outlining some of the issues involved in designing Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma, 1775-1950. I oversaw this project; the book was designed by Tag Savage of Wilsted & Taylor.

There are special issues for American designers when working with Southeast Asian subjects. This book demonstrates, I think, how they can be successfully addressed.

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Print vs. electronic technologies

I’m working on a reprint edition for another publisher of a book originally published by Mercury House sometime in the 1990s. The layout files were on a zip disk — I had to scrounge to find a working zip reader (amazingly, the disk was readable). The files were in an early version of Quark. They used customized Type 1 fonts that had been edited in a font-editing program, and the font files no longer seem readable. Modern substitute fonts cause reflow, with unfortunate page and line breaks. Old style figures, ligatures, and special characters are all problematic. The book incorporates Chinese characters, which back then were difficult to set, so they were outsourced to a specialist in Chinese typesetting; if scans were made before the book went to the print they have been lost.

In short, in just a few years the technology with which this book was produced has been rendered virtually obsolete, leaving the book all but unreadable. Compare that to the print technology that produced the book shown above, which remains perfectly readable after more than a millennium.

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Buried in Books

coffin bookshelves

Who says you can’t take it with you? Well, you might have to leave your books behind, but at least you no longer need to be separated from your bookshelves, thanks to William Warren’s “Shelves For Life.”

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Writers reading Right Reading

links to tom's glossary of publishing termsThe image at right is a selection from my inlinks tag in Google Reader. It shows websites that have been linking to mine (these are all via Google Blog Search). This is less than a single day’s sample. As you can see, all of a sudden many people are posting links on their blogs to my glossary of book publishing terms.

I’m sure the number of links is not staggering compared to pages that go viral on places like Digg. Still, the glossary has gotten about 5,000 views over the past five days.

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Should publishing be open?

Tim O’Reilly makes some points in its favor.

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Another independent publishing company bites the dust

10 speed soldTen Speed Press, a mainstay of Bay Area Book Publishing for nearly forty years, has been sold to Random House, which means it is now part of the Germany-based megacorporation Bertelsmann AG, which is the world’s single largest owner of book publishing companies. This continues the long trend of independents getting swallowed by international entertainment conglomerates.

Ten Speed’s most popular titles include What Color Is Your Parachute and The Moosewood Cookbook. According to a report in the NYT, Ten Speed will retain its editorial staff — Phil Wood will be publisher emeritus — but there will be layoffs in the warehousing and distribution operations. If past experience with such sales is any predictor, for a while the company’s editorial program may seem little changed, but sooner or later it will lose its distinctive character.

Phil Wood says, “I am confident Ten Speed Press, the Company I founded and have owned for almost four decades, will thrive under Random House, whose highly professional people are committed to, and fully understand, publishing.”

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The five rules of book cover design

John Gall, book designer for B&N, shares some thoughts about book cover design.

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Codex Book Fair

codex foundation blog

The second biennial CODEX Book Fair will be held this weekend, February 8-11 in Berkeley. The Codex Foundation promotes the art and craft of the book and strives to increase awareness of the book arts.

For those unable to attend in person, Codex now maintains a blog.

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What are the components of a well-made book?

india, ink

Over at India, Ink., the redoubtable India is thinking about “what materials and processes and vendors to use to make books that will last a hundred years.”

I think traditional books will survive the digital revolution but that their role will change. They will become luxury items, keepsakes, so whoever still knows how to make the nicest books will win. But I’ll bet that a lot of well-meaning production people don’t even know how to spec well-made books, because all they’ve ever been asked to do at their jobs is make everything cheaper and faster. And as the vendors that excel at quality work die off—Stinehour comes to mind—it will become even more difficult to acquire that kind of experience.

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What independents can teach corporate publishers

tom christensen at foreword magazine publishing insider

That’s the topic of my first column over at ForeWord magazine, where I will be doing a series of four guest posts for their Publishing Insider section this January.

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