Musings on Photography

Book Design

Posted in Adobe InDesign, book design by Paul Butzi on January 6, 2008


Gordon McGregor has an interesting post on book design. Gordon, who’s braver than I am, generously shares his previous PDF format book-like efforts, three of them. He’s also got a book recommendation – I have requests for the book he recommends (and the sister volume on type) at the library, so I should have them in hand shortly. Go give Gordon’s blog a visit to see the book titles and his views on them.

In the meantime, I’ve struggled quite a bit with trying to put together a sort of first blush mockup of a book in Adobe InDesign. My struggles have NOT been with InDesign, which takes a bit of learning but is not horrible. Instead, I’ve spent a lot of time struggling with basic concepts of book design – questions like “What is the proper order of all that stuff at the front of the book?” and “What info is really supposed to go on the copyright page?” and so on.

It didn’t take me long to sit down and order up a pile of books from the library. So far I have examined four:

  • Bookworks – Making Books by Hand – Gwenyth Swain.
  • New Book Design – Roger Fawcett-Tang
  • The Little Book of Layouts – David E. Carter
  • Book Design and Production – Pete Masterson

The first book, Bookwords – Making Books By Hand, I requested because I have vague ideas of making extra-special one-off books by printing the pages on my z3100 and then building the pages into a book by hand. Great idea, but this is not the book to get me up to speed for that project. New Book Design I requested hoping it would give me fundamental concepts in book design. Instead, it’s a collection of photos of cover and page spreads for a bunch of modern books. That’s probably great if you’re already up to speed on book design, but it’s not what I wanted. The Little Book of Layouts is not really books at all – it’s all about brochures. Since what I want is help on book specifics, that’s not much help to me. All three of those will go back to the library.

The last book, Book Design and Production, is subtitled A Guide for Authors and Publishers. It’s exactly the sort of book I was looking for. I’ve been learning about ‘front matter’, ‘body’, and ‘back matter’. As I suspected, it turns out there’s a conventional order for everything, and the book has solid information on all of this. In addition, the book is largely oriented toward people who, like me, want to engage in the masochistic process of doing their own book layout using their own computer and some bit of software. There’s what seems to be a very realistic rundown on the various alternatives for software, including Microsoft Word,Pagemaker, Framemaker, Quark Xpress, InDesign, Ventura, Publisher. There’s even a highly enlightening comparison of the same text set with Word, Pagemaker, and InDesign. The difference in appearance between the text set in Word and the text set in InDesign is stunning and really has to be seen to be believed. Let’s just pause here and say that I’m not disappointed that I’ve purchased InDesign.

I liked this book so much that I immediately went to Amazon and purchased a copy. I’m going to want this far longer than the time the library will let me keep it.

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Joe Reifer said, on January 6, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Digital Book Design and Publishing by Douglas Holleley is another outstanding book on this topic.



  2. Harry said, on January 6, 2008 at 8:02 pm


    I enjoy your website very much. I was just going to recommend Digital Book Design and Publishing by Douglas Holleley and am happy to see someone else has already mentioned it. You might also want to explore as an inexpensive way to publish books of images and text.



  3. Paul Butzi said, on January 6, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Thanks for the pointer to the Holleley book. I ordered a copy directly from his website

  4. Kjell Harald said, on January 6, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Hi, I have made a couple of “one of books” like you describe. Printing the pages myself and binding them. It’s great fun, but be prepared for a steep curve on the bookbinding craft as well.

    If you want a book describing the process, have a look at

    Volume IV describes how to sew single pages (not folded folios like in most books). I see that he also has a book about organizing visual books, but I haven’t got that one myself.

  5. Frank Armstrong said, on January 7, 2008 at 6:48 am


    In the FWIW dept: I have in the past year, or so, put together four smallish hand-made books. I merely followed the consense design of most of the 500 or so photo books I own. All were printed using my Epson 2200 and all were designed with Photoshop only. My next book will probably be done by or some such. One of the things I had to figure out for myself was how to keep the ink of one page from scrubbing off on the facing page. Simple solution — spray the prints with a ink jet UV inhibitor such as Lumijet Print Shield. The paper of choice has recently been Staples Photo Supreme Double-sided Matte for the body, and something like the heavier Red River 76 lb Premium Matte for the cover. While these books are not meant for sale or such, I do use them in promotion of my work to galleries, collections, individual sales, etc. The downside is the amount of time it takes just to print the images — usually 40-to-50 depending on the layout and format. After 5-6 hours printing, it only takes about 2 hours to bind 4-or-5 copies of one book. But this happens over a period of several days due to letting the prints dry from both the ink and spraying. Making these books are a great way for a student to present a representation of of an extended portfolio. One former student who graduated with an MFA from Pratt, presented an extended portfolio in the form of a Blurb book to go along with her thesis show. Looked great.


  6. Anita Jesse said, on January 7, 2008 at 7:25 am

    Paul, I would never have gotten through my first publishing experience without Dan Poynter’s “The Self-Publishing Manual”.

  7. Gordon McGregor said, on January 7, 2008 at 10:46 am

    I don’t think of it as bravery, more just a complete lack of shame. I certainly did learn a lot from trying to put those together, particularly the one that I printed and bound myself.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: