Archives for category: Boston

Boston magazine ran a fun article in their September 2013 issue called “Books on the T” (you can see the online version here). The article features pictures of train-riding readers and the captions include the titles of their books.

Books on the T

How often do we want to go up to people with books and ask what they’re reading? (I’m sure it’s not just me!) I enjoyed the article but something started to nag at me. Did it hit you, too?

Every person in the photographs is reading a paper book.

This struck me as odd because when I’m riding on the T, I see a lot of people reading on ereaders and smartphones. So this photo essay didn’t ring true. “What does this mean?” I wondered. Why does the depiction of books in print, online, and in moves seem strongly pro-print? Is there a hidden message here? The magazine has been on my desk and turned to this page for three whole months and I’ve mulled these questions over every day that I’m in the office.

And then today I finally thought, why not just ask the journalist?

Hi S. I.,

As a voracious reader and a publishing professional, I loved your article The Books People Read on the MBTA.

As a print book designer turned ebook developer, I was intrigued by the photos of people in the article only reading paper books. This is something I’ve mulled over and I finally thought, why not ask you? Would you consider, if you did this article on a regular basis, including pictures of people reading ebooks on their ereaders or smart phones?

Many people read ebooks and yet when people in the media are represented reading books, it’s often paper books that are depicted. Even in movies – when was the last time we’ve seen anyone depicted in a movie reading a magazine or book on a device? I just find this to be a fascinating issue because I think it underscores the beloved icon that the paper book has become. We use ebooks but love paper books?

Anyways, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this if you’d like to share them.


And the journalist responded quickly and graciously.

We did take pictures of people reading e-readers. Our art director happened to deem these pictures not among the best. I love e-readers, personally, and can’t remember the last time I bought a paper book, but there you have it. If I were ever to do this again, I would definitely include books in both analog and digital forms.

As to your larger question, why printed books remain iconic in media: A physical book conveys more information at a distance or at a glance. For example, you can usually see: how expensive the book was (marbled edges? leather bound?); its age (discolored paper, cracked bindings); whether it’s been read many times or just a few times (dog ears, margin notes); how thick the book is in comparison to the size of the text; whether it’s “popular” fiction, genre, or literary fiction (“supermarket” paperback versus TPB versus hardcover); how far along the reader is in the narrative. So I think in addition to its iconic status as an object, it’s likely that props people choose printed books because of how much can be implied about the reader by the specific book. Of course, you can also imply something about a person by seeing that they’re using an e-reader!

Thanks for writing … and reading.

The journalist allowed me to share our conversation with you and we welcome your thoughts on this matter.

  • Is it about time that ereaders/ebooks be depicted as iconic as print books in popular culture?
  • Does the fact a reader chooses digital versus paper affect your view of that reader?
  • Do you prefer digital over paper when traveling (even short) distances?
  • Why do I over-think?

…ah, well, I guess that last one is for me to figure out. Meanwhile, I’m putting the magazine back on my shelf. Mystery solved!


If you’re a fan of jazz and you live in the Boston area, or find yourself in the Boston area someday, a visit to Wally’s Jazz Cafe in South Boston is sure to be an oasis in your day. And if you’re super lucky, you’ll find that you’re seated next to a writer who is deeply interested in ebooks and engages you in a delightful and thought-provoking conversation about writing, ereaders, and whether ebooks will or will not decimate print books … all the while with jazz playing in the background. Sublime.

Listening to jazz is one of those moments in life in which I can actually switch off the chatter in my brain and just listen … listen to creative improvisation. “In many instances the players will try to expand upon what the player before them has just played.” In some ways this actually reminds me of the creative process (taking inspiration from others) and also our #eprdctn group on Twitter (sharing information on current technology and trying to make it work better for us).

The writer I was seated next to was Myles Barker and, for the record, we agreed that print books will not go away but will remain for content that benefits highly from that format (highly-designed content such as comics and art books). Check his site out—another conversation we had was regarding his current project of a serialized novel and leveraging the Web to build an audience. He’s doing interesting things with this platform. In turn, he turned me on to Smell of Books and I immediately tried to put in an order through my phone right there at the bar for Scent of Sensibility, although that might have been fueled by my second vodka-and-tonic … but that shall remain between me and Myles.

He also gave me the link to the talk at TED that Chip Kidd gave about book cover design. At the 13:10 mark (there’s a link to it on the right side of the web page) Chip ponders why print books are an object worth contemplating. The smell! Oh yes, he goes there. But the quote that stays with me the most is early in the speech: “A book designer gives form to content, but also manages a very careful balance between the two.” And whether designing for print or digital formats, this one thing remains true.

When my hard-working husband arrived at Wally’s, Myles gave him his seat at the bar. And I gave thanks for books, the ebook ride, jazz, and gentlemen.

See you again at Wally’s soon.

Hey there, Boston-area publishing professionals. I will be presenting Digital Books Are In Your Future: Designing for Tablets and eReaders on Wednesday, March 21 at 7:00 pm at the MassArt Tower Building. The description of the event follows. And if you’re planning on attending and would like to give me a heads up on any questions you would like answered, feel free to leave them in the comments. See you there!

Creative Relay Talk announcement

Creative Relay Talk announcement

Digital books are a big part of the future of publishing. Book designer Colleen Cunningham will go over the basics of designing digital books for tablets (iPad, NookColor, Kindle Fire), e-Readers (Nook and Kindle), and smartphones, comparing how these different devices display book content. Topics of discussions will include:

  • PDF vs ePub file
  • How InDesign fits into an eBook workflow
  • The balance of content and design for the screen vs. the page
  • When to go ePub, when to go app
  • eBooks on a range of eReading devices
  • New technology coming down the pike

If you want to learn what goes into designing books for Tablets and eReaders, join us for this engaging live presentation.

This webinar’s Twitter hashtag: #ebookscr

Thank you for attending the presentation tonight on eBook workflow. I hope it took some of the mystery out of it. I’ve posted a PDF of the presentation on the Appendix page of this blog (click the tab at the top of the page) for your reference. If you have any follow-up questions, please give a shout.

Although the presentation was heavy on the challenges of current eBook production issues, I do want to emphasis that it can be a lot of fun too! And it’s only going to get easier with better eReader support for HTML5 and ePub 3. We’re just at the beginning of the revolution in how people read and we’re all learning the best ways to facilitate it together, both students and publishing professionals alike. As long as people keep reading books, we’ll make books in whatever format they prefer. Remember to read eBooks yourselves, so that you can provide the best reading experience possible.

Hello to the ACLEA’s 47th Annual Meeting attendees. These are the workshops I’ll be presenting:

Workshop A 1:15-2:15
Publishing eBooks on the iPad
Learn about the practical and logistical aspects involved in transforming a print book into an ebook for publication on the iPad and other ereaders, including an overview of the necessary hardware and software, managing workflow and quality control issues, uploading files to online bookstores, and dozens of useful resources for getting up to speed on ebook publishing.

Workshop B 3:00-4:00
EPUB: Designing eBooks for the iPad
See a hands-on demonstration of the EPUB file format, including how to export EPUB files from InDesign, tweaking them to fix common errors and control formatting, inserting images and links, and making your ebooks look great on screen.

In the meantime, feel free to poke around this blog. If you have any questions you would specifically like me to address in the workshops, please leave them in the comments below. See you in Boston!