Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Failure, Humor, Publishing, Science Fiction, tech | Tags: art, blogging, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, humor, jim downey, Science Fiction, technology
Typically, inexpensive paperbacks are made using a process called “perfect binding” where the stack of individual pages are glued up along the spine and a cover is slapped on. The cover at the spine provides a backing to the adhesive used. It’s a process which can be completely mechanized, and is fast & cheap, providing decent value for the money. It’s how the paperback copies of Communion of Dreams are printed.
However, more expensive machine hardcover books, and most varieties of hand-bound books, are done using sheets which are folded and sewn. A folded sheet is called a folio, and a gathering of such folded sheets is called a signature (or section, or quire). How many folios are in a signature varies greatly, from single sheets up to about a dozen, depending on the thickness of the paper and how the book is designed. To make the book ‘work’ properly, the book designer has to make sure that the individual pages are laid out such that when the signatures are gathered together the sequence of pages is correct.
Chances are, most of the physical books you’ve read conform to what we in the West think of as ‘normal’: they have the spine of the book on the left side, pages are numbered with odd numbers on the right and even numbers on the left. To read the book, you turn pages from right to left.
But if you think about this for a moment, it is not the only way a book could be arranged. You could have the spine at the top, for example, and have the ‘book’ work like a typical calendar, turning the pages from bottom to top.
Or you could have the spine on the right side. This orientation would then have you turn pages from left to right. This, in fact, is how traditional Hebrew Bible books are printed, and the same convention is used with Japanese books.
And it’s the way they printed Communion of Dreams, which we discovered when we started looking at the sheets last night.
Here’s an image of the center folio of the proof they sent us:
And here’s an image of the same center folio from the sheets we picked up yesterday:
Note that even the page numbers are now in the wrong locations, being in the center rather than the outside of the pages. The entire book — the entire print run — is done this way. If I wanted to, I could actually bind the book so as to read ‘backwards’ like a Hebrew Bible, though the page numbers are all in the wrong location for that.
I must admit, I’m tempted, just for giggles.
But we’ll get things sorted out with the printer, and get the proper printing done.
Edited to add on Friday afternoon: Yeah, so I think after the printer saw this blog post, and went back over their own records, they realized where & how they had screwed up. They’re now going to reprint the whole order.
Which is what they should do, but it is nice to have a business who is willing to make good without much of a fuss. I can only compliment them on their business practices, and will be happy to use them again in the future.
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