Musings on Photography

Book Sizes

Posted in books by Paul Butzi on January 10, 2008

Well, I’ve been busy laying out various attempts at books, and at the same time I’ve been slowly, painstakingly, and with great confusion poring over the websites of the various well known POD publishers.

Any thought that you might pick some standard size, lay out your book, and then be able to send it to any of dozens of POD places and get it printed has long since left my brain. It’s not going to happen, unless the size you picked was 8.25″x10.5″ or something like that. As far as I can tell, every time you send it off to a different POD place, you’re going to end up tweaking the page size somehow, because even if the finished page size is the same, different places demand different ‘trim’ space. Agh.

But the major disappointment has been that I can’t lay out my book for some gargantuan size (for example, 12″x14″) and hope to get it printed in onesies, or even printed inexpensively. Small books = easy, lots of options, inexpensive. Large books = hard, not very many options, and expensive.

So I am pondering just how much of my desire to do a Paul’s First Big Book of Photos is because I really *need* to have the photos printed big in a book, and how much of it is that I have mistakenly concluded that a small book cannot be what I want because I generally make prints which are ‘large’.

This comes back to the whole big print/small print thing, I suppose. And one of the difficulties that I hadn’t really thought through very clearly is that generally you’re not going to take a book and mount it on the wall and enjoy the photos from a distance. No, you’re going to gurgle some nice Oregonian Pinot Noir into a glass, and light a fire in the fireplace, and then sit down in the comfy chair and page through the book, delighting in the leisurely enjoyment of the book as you hold it in your lap. So a big book is probably something of a hindrance to this process; you don’t want to hold a book that weighs fifteen pounds on your lap while you leaf through it, nor do you want a book that is so large that it’s unwieldy. I don’t know why this hadn’t occurred to me before – I had more than once groused about the size and weight of Linda Butler’s fine book of photos of the Yangtze river. So you’d think it would not be a surprise, but there it is – I was surprised when I realized this.

And this is why the exercise of actually making a book is so useful. There are lots of little details, and actually nailing them down means confronting the details and resolving the issues, and in general I’ve observed that when you go through that process you pretty much always learn quite a lot. You don’t necessarily learn the stuff you thought you would learn, but you do learn a lot of useful stuff.

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Ed Richards said, on January 10, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    My thinking hard about book size and looking at my collection of photobooks lead me to a “dog on the Internet” realization – all of the effort and working I put into LF, except for the use of movements, was a waste for books. Might as well be shooting MF or, except for dynamic range, digital.

  2. Billie said, on January 11, 2008 at 9:17 am

    I like a book that I can take to bed with me. Big heavy books are impossible.

  3. Frank Armstrong said, on January 13, 2008 at 10:43 am


    I think it was Szarkowski who said that every photographer has to make a basic decision as to whether his art is to be public or private. By this he meant, do you want it to be big on a wall for public viewing, or do you want it to be small, hand-held for a private viewing (with a “gurgle” of Oregonian Pinot Noir — prefer an nice anejo tiquila, myself). We can have it both ways, big and small, but I don’t see myself holding something large in my hands — the logistics of handling large books and portfolio prints is a pain and distracts from the viewing pleasure.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: