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Re: [BKARTS] Espresso Jules

Charles Brownson wrote:
Jules Siegel writes in the course of some remarks on the Espresso book machine and handmade books of the painstaking sort that "the best typography is invisible" as if this were an obvious truth. In fact it is only an element in a certain aesthetics of fine printing which has no justification outside that aesthetic.
It's not about fine printing but accessibility and the experience of reading a book as opposed to just looking at it. I design my books according to long-established policies and techniques that I learned beginning at 13 years old in the print shop at Joseph H. Wade Junior High School in The Bronx. These are not essentially aesthetic but technical. There are numerous studies on what makes for readable typography. In both my writing and my design, I aim at clarity and correct grammar and style, both literary and visual.

My aesthetic choices are determined by my personal taste and by what I am trying to accomplish in a given work, as well as the specific use of the design. A book cover has to work at postage stamp size as well as book-size. Ideally, it should look good as a full-sheet poster. No single design can meet all those specifications. Therefore, the catalog thumbnail almost always has to be an adaptation of the book cover. Technique always trumps aesthetics in my work. The book must not only be beautiful. It must look right, and by that I mean it must conform to underlying technical considerations, such as what font of a type family looks best at what size and line length. It must also be appropriate to the subject matter and intended audience. I create books for people who want to read in covers that create the desire to buy. Everything else is subordinate.
So the question: This is the first I ever heard of the Espresso Book Machine. What do the books look like?
They will probably look pretty much like any laser-printed book.
On-demand books from Palgrave have a certain je ne sais quoi which is hard to locate but which says "reprint" loudly.
Presumably because so many Palgrave books are reprints. I can't seem to get their online catalog to work
I hope I'm not being metaphysical. Can anyone explain this?
The essential difference is in the layout and typography. A properly designed on-demand book should be almost indistinguishable from a conventionally printed book The cover printing is shinier than an offset book; the interior printing considerably sharper, both effects of laser printing. I haven't been following the latest developments in on-demand printing, but I gather that more sophisticated equipment is being used as the market grows.

I've looked at a lot of self-published books from services such as lulu.com, iuniverse.com and so on. Almost all that I've seen used canned templates and rather pedestrian typefaces, with Helvetica (or Arial) and Times New Roman very prominent. Most are apparently set up in MS Word, which is a very capable application in many ways, but not noted for its design refinements, especially typographic. I can produce a decent book using Word, but it takes a lot of effort and I have to give up old style numbers, true small caps, as well as other factors that make my books look truly professional.

The covers are often either generic or amateurish, although there are some good-looking ones. The university presses are using on-demand a lot. Without doing a lot of research, I would guess that these books will have a much better feel, because they are put together by professional editors and designers. I also see self-published on-demand books that demonstrate considerable design skill and polish. There are now many designers serving the market. It is evolving rapidly because it is the most economically and environmentally efficient method for creating short run books. All production methods have environmental impact, but on-demand books eliminate the immense waste associated with the huge inventories that are characteristic of conventional publishing. Several years ago, I investigated the possible environmental savings, but I was unable to come to any definite conclusions, as there are many other factors besides paper waste. Nonetheless, the tons upon tons of books pulped every day speak for themselves.

As I said previously, I have no argument with fine binding, hand-made paper, letterpress printing and other artisanal methods and effects. I wrote out a novel in my own handwriting and published it in close facsimile. You can see it here: <http://madlaughter.com/slides/slides/memoir_cover_orig.html>. I also created one-of-a-kind books with my own decidedly amateurish and rustic bindings. But ultimately my books are about reading, not having. I turned to the on-demand book because it relieved me of handicraft burdens that I consider irrelevant to my goals as an artist and an author. I enjoyed creating hand-made books, and I am sure that I will return to that pleasure, but right now I am trying to put my literary affairs in order before I go blind or die. As I am 72 years old, and my sight is failing (although still correctable), I have a great sense of urgency.

Others here may define themselves as book artists. I am an author who became a book artist out of frustration with the conventional publishing process. That is a long story and I deal with it in part in my works, so I will stop here.

JULES SIEGEL Apdo. 1764, 77501-Cancun, Q. Roo, Mexico

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