concept to publication

Month: September 2009

Break time

Right Reading is taking some time off. If circumstances allow I may make the occasional post, but posting will be, at best, light for the next couple of weeks. After that: recharged!

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:

Book titles then and now

A lot of people have weighed in with examples of book titles then and now over at 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?

Redesigning Craigslist

Recently Wired magazine asked a group of designerz to reenvision Craigslist. According to Wired, “Visitors arriving at craigslist are confronted by a confusing homepage cluttered with links most people will never click on. Overall, the user interface is in dire need of an organizing principle that guides you to the details you seek while filtering out extraneous information.”

Hot links

“Think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” — Charles Dickens

Duly quoted

“Weblogs are a ‘revolution.’ They’re ‘journalism.’ They’re ‘art.’ They’re, again and again, the next New Thing. To which the only possible response can be: come on, people. . . . How can you not boggle at the level of self-delusion, of self-infatuation, it takes to declare that . . . the concept will be alive and well a decade from now? That weblog readership will increase a hundredfold in that time?”

—Greg Knauss, November 1999, in Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters (via Island Bookworm)

Right Reading is taking a brief break

Back soon.

Friday roundup

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

Random self-promotion

I touch your mouth . . .

I touch your mouth, I touch the edge of your mouth with my finger, I am drawing it as if it were something my hand was sketching, as if for the first time your mouth opened a little, and all I have to do is close my eyes to erase it and start all over again, every time I can make the mouth I want appear, the mouth which my hand chooses and sketches on your face, and which by some chance that I do not seek to understand coincides exactly with your mouth which smiles beneath the one my hand is sketching on you….

This is Julio Cortazar, enormisimo supercronopio, reading chapter 7 of his novel Rayuela.

Will Powers (1946-2009) and “The Printer’s Error”

A friend and colleague, Will Powers, died suddenly of a heart attack on August 25. I had worked with Will when I was at North Point Press, employing him as a free-lance copy editor and proofreader. He had worked previously as a typographer at Stinehour Press, and he brought a craftsman’s eye to the projects he worked on. About twenty years ago, Will moved to the twin cities, and for the past eleven years he worked as design and production manager for the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Above, where I mentioned his work as a proofreader, I initially typed “proofreading” instead, and I was sorely tempted to retain that error, for reasons that will become apparent. Sometime in the past year or two Will e-mailed me the following poem, entitled “The Printer’s Error,” by Aaron Fogel. It seems a fitting memorial, and I hope the author will not mind me running it here in Will’s memory.

Ikea replaces Futura with Verdana

Ikea has used the geometric bauhausesque Futura (left above), designed by Paul Renner around 1925, as its signature font for some fifty years. It’s a font that emphasizes the Platonic essence of letterforms in an interesting way but provides little forward momentum, so to speak, for extended reading.

Verdana (designed by Matthew Carter around the late 1990s, I think; at right above) is a more “humanist” (the letterforms to some degree evoke traditional Renaissance pen letterforms) font that was designed for use at small sizes on computer monitors. To this end it has a large x-height, large counters (openings), broad character widths, and other features that help to identify letters and tell similar ones apart at small sizes.

A lot of typeheads are distressed by Ikea’s decision, largely because Ikea is using Verdana as a display face, a function for which it wasn’t really intended.

Well, true, it doesn’t look as good, so why are they making the change?

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