Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is.
Transcript source: TED.com
Ahh! We come upon them, the clandestine lovers. Let’s draw them out. Huhh! They’ve been discovered by the sultan. He will not be pleased. Huhh! And now the sultan is in danger. And now, we have to open it up to find out what’s going to happen next. Try experiencing that on a Kindle. (Laughter)
Don’t get me started. Seriously. Much is to be gained by eBooks: ease, convenience, portability. But something is definitely lost: tradition, a sensual experience, the comfort of thingy-ness — a little bit of humanity.
Do you know what John Updike used to do the first thing when he would get a copy of one of his new books from Alfred A. Knopf? He’d smell it. Then he’d run his hand over the rag paper, and the pungent ink and the deckled edges of the pages. All those years, all those books, he never got tired of it. Now, I am all for the iPad, but trust me — smelling it will get you nowhere. (Laughter) Now the Apple guys are texting, “Develop odor emission plug-in.” (Laughter)
And the last story I’m going to talk about is quite a story. A woman named Aomame in 1984 Japan finds herself negotiating down a spiral staircase off an elevated highway. When she gets to the bottom, she can’t help but feel that, all of a sudden, she’s entered a new reality that’s just slightly different from the one that she left, but very similar, but different. And so, we’re talking about parallel planes of existence, sort of like a book jacket and the book that it covers.
So how do we show this? We go back to Hepburn and Dietrich, but now we merge them. So we’re talking about different planes, different pieces of paper. So this is on a semi-transparent piece of velum. It’s one part of the form and content. When it’s on top of the paper board, which is the opposite, it forms this. So even if you don’t know anything about this book, you are forced to consider a single person straddling two planes of existence. And the object itself invited exploration interaction, consideration and touch.
This debuted at number two on the New York Times Best Seller list. This is unheard of, both for us the publisher, and the author. We’re talking a 900-page book that is as weird as it is compelling, and featuring a climactic scene in which a horde of tiny people emerge from the mouth of a sleeping girl and cause a German Shepherd to explode. (Laughter) Not exactly Jackie Collins. Fourteen weeks on the Best Seller list, eight printings, and still going strong.
So even though we love publishing as an art, we very much know it’s a business too, and that if we do our jobs right and get a little lucky, that great art can be great business.
So that’s my story. To be continued. What does it look like? Yes. It can, it does and it will, but for this book designer, page-turner, dog-eared place-holder, notes in the margins-taker, ink-sniffer, the story looks like this.