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Catching up: We’ve been designing books, not blogging

Our book design blog has been fairly quiet this year. 10 posts all year. That’s not much blogging. The lack of blogging isn’t from a lack of things to say, simply a lack of time with all the books that we’ve been designing. Despite the global economic crisis, the freelance book design business is healthy. Now, it’s time to make an effort to catch up on the blogging. And along the way perhaps we’ll get a chance to update our online portfolio, which is woefully out-of-date.

Stay tuned for more posts. I’ll be making brief posts about many of our current and recent projects while Ceci will offer more in-depth posts examining specific design aspects.

By |September 28th, 2009|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , |Comments Off on Catching up: We’ve been designing books, not blogging

The future of book design

Book design will diverge down several paths and has a surprisingly healthy future.

1) E-books based on a reflow format (i.e., suitable for small devices) will be based on common style sheets and exhibit a fairly uniform appearance. There will be a set of small (in size) firms that customize and refine these style sheets. Publishers will mostly outsource the format conversion since the ever changing variety of devices requires continual reformating of material. There will be some firms that profit very well from providing this service.

2) E-books based on PDFs also will be very popular due to the variety of light-weight computing devices with large screens. (The whole PDF vs reflow format for e-books is misleading unless one assumes that small, palm-sized devices will completely replace all other forms of desktop, notebook, and tablet-sized computers.)

3) Some material traditionally only published in book format will shift to Web delivery and “book” design for this genre actually is Web design. Many challenges for publishers in this segment who have not yet figured out how to monetize Web sites. (If publishers have not figured that out in the last 15 years, will the next 15 years be much different?) Many opportunities for new publishing firms to emerge to fill the gap for producing and monetizing engaging content using digital media. Many opportunities for designers since elegant Web design is neither simple nor cheap.

4) Print-on-demand establishes a significant market operating in bookstores, libraries, big-box retail outlets, and direct shipping to consumers. All those books still need designing and the PDF byproduct can feed directly into pathway #2 above as well as #1 with conversion services offered in pathway #1.

5) Print book designers will still flourish as some publishers will realize that a niche audience is willing to pay a premium for a wonderfully designed book, heralding a surprising renaissance in book design. Also, print book designers can design PDF-based e-books with no problem since PDF is usually a byproduct in the print book design process.

By |December 22nd, 2008|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , , , , |8 Comments


I’m convinced that e-books eventually will replace printed books as the world’s primary reading material.

And before you say it: just because you don’t want to cuddle up in bed with an e-book, don’t assume, don’t assert, that others share that attitude.

Wide acceptance of e-books largely depends upon functional reading devices but limited distribution of printed books is an even larger issue. Sure, print-on-demand offers a solution but what happens when the quality of e-books are better and more affordable and more accessible than books printed on demand?

I already live in a part of the world where 95% of the English-languages books I want to read are not easily available. That scenario, the lack of printed reading material, really adjusts your perspective about e-books. (Meanwhile, fortunately, I am surrounded by a wealth of Spanish-language books). But I still feel the necessity of an e-book reader. Unfortunately, international shipping to Argentina is not reliable and there’s a huge import tax on electronics. So, my e-book reader will have to wait until some future visit to North America.

What is the future of book design in an e-book world? Very healthy.

Book design, layout, and typography will continue to play the same role in producing e-books as in printed books. Indeed, one could argue that readability may be an even more important factor with e-books. New possibilities with layout and presentation also may be presented through e-book readers. Of course, there will be limitations and some books just will not be as presentable through e-book readers as in their printed counterparts. Essentially, book designers already produce every printed book as an e-book anyway. In all cases, the final production files delivered to the printer are digital files and almost always in PDF. So, there is still plenty need for book designers in an e-book world.

What about book cover design? Very healthy.

The cover image will continue to play an important marketing role in helping people select which e-books to read. Just as with printed books, e-books need some way of standing out in the crowd.

And what about printed books in an e-book world?

People will still want to buy books, but my thinking is that people will be more interested in spending money on specialized books, books not available digitally, books that offer an experience, books that involve a high degree of design.

So, we may be book designers but that doesn’t mean we’re traditionalists. Of course, in a sense, book design is not so much about the book but about the ways that text and images are conveyed to the reader.

By |January 17th, 2008|Categories: Book Design, e-book design, publishing|Tags: , , , |2 Comments


There’s a good discussion in the comments over at the BookEnds literary agency blog on the Power of an Author Blog.

Most people are never very interested in blogs that are too personal. No one really cares about what you had for dinner last night or seeing photos of your cat. Blogs are not for writing about your interesting life.

Internet marketers do as much thinking about how to use the net as anyone and view a blog largely as an attraction strategy, a way of bringing attention to one’s products or services. Blogging tools are superb for optimizing a Web site in terms of search engines.

Author blogs and web sites are not so much for an author’s current readers but serve as a strategy for attracting new readers.

Blogs are ideally suited for the non-fiction writer who can write about a niche and gain readers that way. For example, Quid plura? by Jeff Sypeck is a non-fiction writer I came across while reading those comments to the BookEnds post. Sypeck just released a book about Charlemagne. While I don’t think much about medieval history these days, browsing through Sypeck’s site makes me interested in reading the book. Note, too, that Sypeck’s new book also has its own Web site: becomingcharlemagne.com

I have a theory that an author website/blog will one day be the primary distribution platform for an author’s writings. The details of that are for another post.

Meanwhile, here is a great quote from Sypeck’s blog:

I was reminded of the neatest thing about writing a book in the first place: the author’s obsession, developed over years and often nurtured in solitude, finally becomes a shared point of reference through which readers can look anew at some aspect of the world.

By |December 20th, 2007|Categories: author websites|Tags: , |2 Comments


We were recently notified by someone that about a dozen of our book cover designs were being used by a book cover design firm in India. That was surprising news to us. I quickly contacted the company in India and demanded an explanation.

The Indian company promptly responded that the designs were provided to them by one of their designers. The manager of the company apologized, removed our book cover designs from their portfolio, and stated that the designer would be “punished”. Considering their quick response to this matter and their explanation I’ve decided not to link to that company or print their name in this post. Should I?

An odd aspect to this situation is that the firm didn’t include the stolen designs directly in their online portfolio but only in an e-mail to potential clients and labeled the designs as their extended portfolio. So, if someone had not notified us by e-mail then we would have never learned about this incident. I’m trying to have good faith in believing that the Indian firm actually did remove the cover designs and not just changed the location to a URL I do not know about.

Ultimately, it’s quite foolish for a designer to use another designer’s portfolio. What happens when the design thief cannot deliver the same quality of designs as presented in the portfolio?

It’s very common for book cover designers to be influenced by the covers of other designers. It’s something else to blatantly use another’s portfolio as one’s own.

By |December 19th, 2007|Categories: Book Design|Tags: , , |4 Comments


sorodesign recently completed the Web site for Argentine illustrator Alejandro Firszt. The design reflects Ale’s desire for a clean, minimalist layout.

Ale Firszt Illustrator

Authors and publishers interested in contracting with an illustrator should take a moment to examine Ale’s portfolio. He is an exceptional illustrator. Here are a couple of examples of his works:

By |December 13th, 2007|Categories: author websites|Tags: , , , |3 Comments

BLOG, E-BOOK, now what?

For almost three years I’ve been writing about the cultural heritage and social history of Buenos Aires, Argentina on my blog Buenos Aires, City of Faded Elegance. Since it’s a blog by an American living in a foreign country it tends to get grouped in the travel category. I do write a lot about how to experience travel on a more meaningful level than just a cursory visit to the sights that are in every guidebook. But in my blog I purposefully avoid most mentions of restaurants and hotels. I’ve always wanted to write much more than just a traveler’s account of a few days or even a few months in one locale.

Like all blogs my own now has an extensive archive. Whenever I come across a new blog I read the latest postings and, if I like those, I add the site to my news reader. I always intend to go back and browse the archived postings but I rarely do so. Figuring that a lot of visitors to my site also never make it too far into the archives, I decided to pull together a selection of postings from my archives and create a free e-book. It was a challenge to distill so much material down to 50 pages, which is the length I had in mind. I ended up with 57 pages.

Buenos Aires free e-book

So, I’ve taken my blog and made an e-book. What’s next?

In my blog’s archives I have enough text that could be converted to approximately 175 more pages. With some editing and arrangement there is certainly more than enough material to produce an insightful book on Buenos Aires. But no one wants to read a 225 page e-book. I certainly don’t (unless I have a nifty e-book reader) and am not intending to release a PDF like that (and definitely not for free).

There’s always the self-publishing route and a lot of our clients here at sorodesign take that approach. I know enough about self-publishing that it wouldn’t be difficult to produce some sales directly from blog.

I was just calculating the year-end stats of my blog for 2007 and it amounts to about 80,000 unique visitors a year coming to my blog on Buenos Aires. Argentina’s weak economy has resulted in a tourism boom so I’m always getting a lot of new readers to the blog seeking out things to do in Buenos Aires.

My inclination is to query literary agents and see what type of response I get. I’ll post updates on this blog about my own success or failure in going from blog to book.

BTW, Cecilia did the page layout for the e-book and she will be posting later about the actual layout.

By |December 8th, 2007|Categories: publishing|Tags: , |2 Comments


Yanina Arabena is a young graphic designer that we employ on occasion to do some book design work with us. Lately she has been doing a lot of experimental calligraphy. Here is one example of her beautiful work and you can find more on her Flickr pages.

experimental calligraphy

By |November 30th, 2007|Categories: Book Design|Tags: |2 Comments


One of the things I like about living in a large city like Buenos Aires is the unexpected. A while back we were hanging out with our friend Robert at El HipopĆ³tamo, one of those classic bars from the 1920s that dot Buenos Aires, when a bearded maker of miniature books came by selling his little books.

He had a selection of titles, most going for around $5. We chose the Cuentos de la Selva (Stories of the Jungle) by the classic Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga.

You can see the size of the book here next to an ink pen. The size of the book is 6cm x 7.5 cm.

[Oops…photo gone missing…]

Nice binding!

[Oops…photo gone missing…]

And despite the small size the print is very readable. (My little Sony digital camera doesn’t focus too well at this small of a distance – and I didn’t feel like throwing the book on the flatbed scanner – so any fuzziness in this photo is my camera and not the typography).

[Oops…photo gone missing…]

By |November 22nd, 2007|Categories: Book Design, rare books|Tags: , |4 Comments


I was over at the Book Standard site, looking at their news entries, and decided that I wanted to subscribe to a feed of their news stories. On the main news page of Book Standard I looked around in vain for some indication of a news feed. Finally, when I clicked on one of the news items and got to the next page then I saw the RSS/XML indicator for the feed.

Okay, all is good, or so I thought.

Usually when you click on the RSS/XML label then you’re prompted to subscribe to the feed. News feeds generally start with the latest items, what the site is publishing today. I have over 400 feeds in my Bloglines and it’s my main way of keeping track of what’s happening on the net.

Yet, Book Standard doesn’t seem to understand the concept of feeds. At Book Standard when you click on the RSS/XML label you get a pop-up window that asks you which feed you want to subscribe to from VNU eMedia. Uh, I just wanted Book Standard, what the heck is VNU eMedia? (Actually, I know what it is but why do they assume everyone does?):


Here you get the options for most VIEWED stories, most EMAILED stories, most PRINTED stories, and most SAVED stories. Hey, I just want the LATEST stories…just like every other feed on the net. And, really guys, why do people care about the most printed stories? That might be an interesting statistic for internal use but you really think it needs a feed?

Why make it complicated?

And since I’m picking on the Book Standard, why did the Book Standard shut down Book Trailerpark?

I just worry about a publishing conglomerate that doesn’t seem to understand online publishing.

By |July 4th, 2007|Categories: publishing|Tags: |Comments Off on WHERE’S the FEED?