Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Design and Lithography of Books (part 1)

When I buy a hardback (which is rare), I love to take off the paper cover and look at the cloth underneath. It seems like something hidden-away, a kind of secret discovery. I sometimes wonder about who chooses all that cloth and gilt. Who thinks about the colour of cloth, the design of the letters, the size and the binding?

Last Saturday I went to a very interesting talk on self-publishing at the Society of Authors in Manchester.

Geoff Fisher (who is a sales manager at Antony Rowe, a printing firm which specialises in books) is clearly a man who loves the printed page. He relishes the old names of the fonts (e.g. Helvetica, Times New Roman), and the sizes of books (e.g. large crown Octavo)

He gave us some interesting facts about the process of printing.

Litho or digital

For print runs of over 300 then the litho method is the best; but it costs just as much to reprint each time. The litho method is also good for grey-shading and there are greater binding options. It is best to use multiples of 32 pages.

Digital is the preferred option for print runs less than 300. It is not so good for shading but better for colour, and the range of paper used is more limited.

Estimating the correct print run is essential. He suggested doing a pilot run of the book in digital print to assess the market before committing to litho.

Enhancing the book

The book should be given to the printer as a pdf

Colour is good if used wisely, and these together with black and white images should be chosen with care.

Paper is 30-60% the cost of the book and it is essential to take advice on this and to see samples.

Laminating the cover enhances the look of the book as do coloured end papers, head and tail bands (which are inexpensive).


It is best to stick to serif typefaces (those with embellishments at the ends of lines) e.g. antiqua, or century.

Sans serif e.g. ariel, should be avoided.

Chapter headings should take up half a page and should preferably be on the right hand page.

Lines of type should not be too wide (7-10 words per line) and should not be too close together.

Margins and other white spaces are also important.

Geoff Fisher recommends that to get a good-looking product an author should work with a student of printing. It will give good practice to the student and a superior product to the author.

To be continued (including advice on P.O.D.)


Blogger Lee said...

Interesting info, thanks

Sun Mar 09, 09:51:00 am  
Blogger Anne S said...

I love hard covered books, and do exactly the same as you with them, that is removing the dust jacket and looking at the binding. Sometimes the binding is quite plain, other times it is surprisingly ornate.

A well produced book is a joy to own, and I am fond of the motifs used at chapter headings or along the margins of the page.

Other things I enjoy about well produced books, are books with ribbon markers, slipcases or inset, foldout maps as is the case with my lovely rice paper edition of Lord Of The Rings.

Sun Mar 09, 10:11:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you found it so, Lee! More to follow...

Anne S, yes, I agree completely - and that is the reason that I think the kindle will never replace books entirely. There is something about owning them, and the physical presence of books that is important to me too. And yes, all those other features, the ribbon markers, the high quality paper, the slip-cases and maps. It shows that the person who produced them loved them too. It becomes an heirloom or at least a much-treasured object.

Sun Mar 09, 10:52:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

Fascinating. I'm a big fan of paper, notebooks, pads, cards, scraps and a big fan of books. I don't really know where one passion ends and the next begins. Virtual books will never replace the real for me, anymore than MP3pods will replace CD's. I think the font preference thing is interesting too. I recall 'Darkmans' was printed in something very modern (arial perhaps) and it made it feel very different reading it. Easier on the eyes too? I'm interested in the font supporting the meaning of the writing - something I play about with on my haiku post it notes.

Sun Mar 09, 01:10:00 pm  

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