Thursday, September 25, 2008

Breaking and starting traditions
Why my books look the way they do


Book chapters traditionally begin on right-hand pages (called “recto” in the book business); but unfortunately book chapters don’t always conveniently end on left-hand “verso” pages.

That’s why lots of books have blank left pages or left pages with just cute little pictures on them. That’s a waste of paper, trees, energy and money; so my books will book ignore that tradition.

Chapters start on the page after the previous chapter ends. Some start recto and some start verso, whatever comes naturally.

In my first book, we saved 38 pages this way. That could add up to a lot of paper, and maybe save a few trees. If other publishers would do this, they would probably save lots of trees, energy and money. With concern about the depletion of forests, and the high cost of energy, that’s more important than following tradition.

We’re also flouting publishing tradition in other ways.

Normally the first few pages of a book have no numbers printed on them, and then come pages with Roman numerals, and finally come the pages with standard “Arabic” numbers. This system has always seemed silly and unnecessarily complicated to me. Therefore, ►in my books, the first page has number 1 on it. It was much easier to put the books together this way, and I encourage others to follow the new tradition.

Finally, ► the type is set “flush left/ragged right” rather than “justified,” where most lines are the same length and they fill the space from left to right. Justified type, which is still the dominant format for book printing, can look beautiful, but takes a lot of time to do right; and a lot of sloppy justified type gets printed. The lines of type in my first book are like most websites and a growing number of magazines and books. Ragged right is much easier to produce, and people accept it.

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