Archives for category: Independent Bookstores

The publishing industry is in a constant state of change these days, what with these new technologies and ebooks and ereaders and apps and whatnot. The changes can be overwhelming and so it’s good to put it into context. Sure, the printed book has been around, it feels like, forever but even the printed book has gone through its fair share of change.

I was browsing last month in a used bookstore in Greenwich Village, NYC, when I came upon The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski. When I handed the book over to purchase it, I mentioned to the owner of the bookstore that I was a print book designer turned ebook designer but I still loved print. He responded, in a bitter tone, “I like the first part of that but not the second. You guys are gonna put me out of business.” So remind me not to mention ebooks in a used bookstore. What I had intended was to start a conversation regarding digital versus print and I did mention that I personally don’t feel that print books are going away … but he wasn’t in the mood, or buying it, or something that prevented me from connecting to him.

Anyways, I’m enjoying the book and it’s full of reminders that reading matter has always been evolving:

“In the early centuries of [a.d.], bookshelves had to accommodate, in addition to scrolls, a growing number of bound manuscripts, or codices, which in time would displace scrolls as the preferred format for books. The codex, named for the face that it was covered with wood (codex means “tree trunk” in Latin), and which led to the term “code” in a legal context, was made by folding over flat sheets of papyrus or parchment and sewing them together into a binding. This had several distinct advantages over the scroll. Where an entire scroll might have to be unrolled to find a passage near the end, the relevant page could be turned to immediately in the codex. Also, writing in a scroll was normally on one side only, whereas the codex lent itself to the use of both sides of the leaf.”

(above, click on pic to enlarge) “In the sixteenth century, books began to have authors and titles, and the date of the edition imprinted on their spines. As long as the practice was far from universal, however, not all books were shelved spine outward. Here, a book not so imprinted is identified by a slip of paper tipped into an inside cover and folder over the book’s fore-edge.”

“Although cloth binding as we know it was first adapted to book-binding in 1823, ‘a style of binding uniform for all copies of the same book’ did not appear until around 1830, when machinery was introduced to letter the cloth-bound cases that could be fitted over the printed guts of a book. This development ushered in a new chapter in the way books were made and sold. Whereas the bookseller would bind or have bound, by hand of course, only as many copies as were likely to be sold in the immediate future—a form of just-in-time manufacturing [my note: doesn’t this sound like modern print-on-demand?]—with the advent of machinery the publisher itself began to bind an entire edition of a book in the common style of the time.”

Sure, we’re in the midst of a change in publishing … and it’s not the first time. Sure, it can be scary and uncertain and can make us fight over what we see the future as coming to. But the bottom line is that as long as people keep writing books and reading them and relating to each other through them, it’sallgood. And we can be proud to be a part of that chain that connects us all.


We’re back from Kansas City. Our vacation was spent hanging out with family and playing pool, bowling, eating (KC is surprisingly vegetarian-friendly), and seeing the sites. And I unplugged and went five days without a computer. A good time all around!

We toured the Hallmark Visitor Center where we got to talk to a craftsman. He was shaping the metal outline of a card that will cut out the card on press. The design he was working on had a small scalloped edge and he had to make each curve the same by hand. He was very casual about the whole thing, but his skill was amazing to watch.

There was also a video that featured the Hallmark design team. Many of them talked about what inspired them and how they recharged to keep up a high level of creativity. The answers to both issues seemed to be the same: getting out of their cubicles and seeing what their coworkers were working on. A good reminder for all of us cube dwellers that we need to get up once in a while … probably more often than most of us do.

We also visited Prospero’s Books. Visiting independent bookstores is one of my favorite things to do when visiting another city because each one has its own personality, the bookseller can be a good source of information for things to do in town, and having an hour or two to browse and find new titles and see new designs is a mini-vacation within a vacation! This store had used books in excellent condition, beautiful wooden shelving, nooks to read in, and cool artwork.

click on the picture to enlarge it

I love taking tons of pictures (luckily my poor family tolerates this) and playing with the pictures afterwards in Photoshop is fun too. I like this tutorial (the lab color method) for converting color to black and white. Here’s a picture using that method that captures the mood of that laid-back afternoon.

click on the picture to enlarge it

And now it’s Monday and time to get back to work. By the time this posts I’ll be drinking my second cup of coffee and making my to-do list. It’s good to get away and recharge and it’s good to be back.