Archives for posts with tag: 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.

Update: Thank you to all who attended tonight’s meeting! I hope it was helpful. InDesign is a good tool to prepare your book for the ePub format. The coding part was to demonstrate what else is possible (the more code you can learn, the more control you’ll have over your end product). Here’s the link to the presentation slides [PDF] and here’s where you can find my resources article on Digital Book World. I hope they both help you in your own experimentation with the ePub format. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. Cheers!

• • •

Update: You can click here to download the demonstration materials (zipped folder). The “before” InDesign files and ePub file and the “after” InDesign files and ePub file are included. The exact fonts are not necessary for the InDesign file (feel free to substitute them). I included a few PDFs as well (ePub coding snippets, ePub InDesign template checklist, and my Dreamweaver workflow for your reference).

If you want to follow along, you’ll also need InDesign (CS4/4/5.5), these AppleScripts, a text editor or Dreamweaver, and Adobe Digital Editions. I’ll be working on a Mac so these materials are meant for the Mac platform.

There’s a lot to cover in the presentation so I’ll be moving fast. But these are the materials I’ll be using, so even if you don’t want to follow along during the demo, you can still check them out before or after.

A special thank you goes out to Liz Castro for giving me permission to re-use her sample InDesign files!

• • •

Hello to the Boston IDUG members attending the “Using InDesign to Create eBooks” meeting on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to showing you how InDesign can be used to create an eBook. But that’s just the start. Opening the exported ePub file and knowing how to adjust the code will help you make your eBook look great and to validate so that it can be uploaded to the major eBook retailers. My demonstration will show you how to do this. I’ll also show examples of why it’s important to have a quality assurance (QA) system in place so that your eBook workflow is set up to make a good-looking eBook every time. You’ll come away with checklists and resources to enable you to start making your own eBooks right away.

Check back on Tuesday to download the materials if you want to follow along with the demonstration (update: materials will be available by 9:00 tonight). Then just bring your laptop and InDesign. I’ll be demo’ing from CS4 but CS5 and 5.5 (lucky you!) are fine too. See you there!

Here’s the details

Boston InDesign User Group Meeting
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
6:30 PM – 9:15 PM
MassArt Tower Building – Trustees Room
621 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
Free, registration required.

As an additional advantage to attendees and IDUG members, AGI Training is announcing a special discount offer on their latest offering in ePub training:

EPUB Training Class
Monday, June 6, 2011
120 Presidential Way, Woburn, MA
Call to register: 781.404.4072
IDUG MEMBER DISCOUNT: $95 per trainee (Non-member price is $495 per trainee … a $400 discount!)