Book Publishing Operations: Book Design

11 May

I’m back in the office after spending most of three days in Albany, Texas. In particular, amongst other things, while I was there I was fortunate enough to meet with Andrew Clarke, from Washington D.C. and president of Asia Pacific Offset, as well as with Veronica Haas, a sales rep from San Francisco. More and more printing, especially 2, 3, and 4 color, is being done in China so I was interested to talk to them about some upcoming projects we have in the works, especially a coffee table book about the history of Texas State Technical College.

For those of you not familiar with Asia Pacific Offset’s work, I would highly recommend you visit their Web site. They do a lot of specialty printing and binding—right now a very cool book tie-in with the television show Six Feet Under is featured at their site—in addition to more traditional work. I also picked up a couple of very interesting samples, Bent Ply and Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.

Bent Ply is about bent/molded plywood furniture and it has a plywood front and back cover. Cradle to Cradle is about designing more eco-friendly products and is itself printed on plastic paper, very durable and waterproof. As soon as I saw the former I was wishing our new building trades program would have enough students in it to have a textbook with a hardback cover like this. As soon as I saw the latter, it made me think about printing our upcoming technical dictionaries in this manner—as opposed to traditional hardback—so that they might be even more durable.

Another thing these two books brought to mind is the fact that with books it’s not necessarily the words alone that matter. The packaging/presentation of those words can contribute a great deal to the content itself. I mean, with music nobody really cares—I don’t think—whether they are listening to it on a stereo or an iPod or on a computer or whatever because it’s audio: only the sound matters, not the delivery system. Books, on the other hand, don’t fall as neatly into that category. You could have an e-book of Bent Ply or some other digitized version, but a picture of the cover on a screen just doesn’t even remotely have the same visceral impact as tearing off the shrink wrap, smelling the plywood cover, and feeling the serious heft of it in your hands.

Mark

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