This video, of Hank Green ranting about book publishing problems, never fails to give me a good laugh. I heartily agree with pretty much everything he says.
0:20 When he starts talking about spoilers in the blurbs and spoilers because of poor layout choices… my copy of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four did this to me. Some book designer thought it would be a good idea to put the last three sentences of the story opposite the Appendix: The Principles of Newspeak. To top it off, my book is a second hand copy and the previous owner liked the last sentence so much he, or she, decided to underline it (!).
So, I’m seven pages into the book, and I come across a footnote that tells me to “see Appendix”. I obey and turn to the back of the book. There, the first thing my eyes can’t help but see, is not the Appendix, but the last sentence–four unforgettable words, underlined in dark pen! It might as well have written like this: SP SPOIL SPO SPOILER!!! Needless to say, I hold a permanent grudge against both the the designer and the unknown previous owner of my book. 😦
2:10 Books that look like Twilight covers. I have to say, I was rather horrified and surprised, when I came across Words to Live By (a selection of C. S. Lewis’s writing), a few years ago, in an online bookstore. I still cringe, every time I come across it. As much as I like C. S. Lewis, I would never consider buying this book because of it’s cover. Actually, I take that back. I just realised I would buy it, in one case, only–if I wanted to give a C. S. Lewis book to someone who was also a fan of Twilight! I have yet to meet someone like that.
If we want to talk about design choices and symbolism, I’m really not quite sure what the cover designer was going for here. Surely their target audience wasn’t Twilight fans. I’m thinking that maybe they want to insinuate food for the soul? But more often than not, in Christian symbolism, an apple in a hand means one of three things: temptation, sin, forbidden fruit. The more I think about it the more bizarre this cover choice seems. Why, oh why?!
It also bothers me when two books use the exact same picture as a cover. What’s worse is when you unknowingly buy both of them.
Case in point, my copy of The Diary of an Old Soul by George MacDonald and The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 by Paul Johnson. I bought both of these off an online bookstore, secondhand, and the cover photo was not available for either when I made my order. Imagine my surprise when I ended up with the versions that both use The Wanderer over the Sea of Clouds by Casper David Friedrich. In this case, I really wish the cover designer of The Diary of an Old Soul had a gone with a different cover. Sigh.
2:15 I have a few old books with deckle edges (i e. 80 to 100-year-old; from an era when deckle edges were still a part of the book making process) and I think the deckle edge adds a bit of antique charm to the books. But, I agree, it is annoying (and this is probably more along the lines of what Hank is talking about) when it’s a conscious design choice in modern books, just to make the books seem fancier. Deckle edges tend to get soiled and worn faster than trimmed edges, so I think it’s a pretty dumb design decision and it also looks gimmicky.
How about you, dear reader? Do you have any publishing peeves? (Tom?? I’m guessing you do. 🙂 ) If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below. 🙂
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- Jordan B. Peterson’s Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief Audiobook
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