Musings on Photography

Digital Book Design and Publishing

Posted in books, Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on February 9, 2008

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My copy of Digital Book Design and Publishing by Douglas Holleley arrived yesterday. This was one of the books that got so many recommendations that I ordered it sight unseen from the publisher. (Note:the reason it took so long to arrive is that Holleley was away traveling. I’m guessing folks who order today will get their copies more quickly.)

I haven’t made it all the way through the book yet. Some of the stuff covered is not really of interest to me – the section on scanning, for instance, is well done but of very limited use to me. But the parts that I’ve looked at are impressive in how they communicate what I want to know and manage to sneak in other stuff that I didn’t know I wanted to know.

I found the first chapter, titled “The Nature of the Book” to be particularly illuminating. It’s something of a rumination on what makes books book-like and other things not-book-like. To quote a passage:

In a book one looks at images and words sequentially. The author has the power to control the nature of the experience by altering the order of the pages so that the reader can be led through the work in a pre-determined path.

Photographers such as Minor White and Nathan Lyons have demonstrated through their art-practice and teaching, that the thoughtful sequencing of images is an almost indispensable tool of visual authorship. Keith Smith in The Structure of the Visual Book, has codified many of Lyon’s thoughts on this matter and the reader of this book is encouraged to refer to Smith’s volume. Both White and Lyons see the sequence as a strategy independent of the forum in which the images are viewed, seeing it as equally valid for exhibitions, portfolios, or books. However, of these choices, the book presents the greatest opportunity to realize the full power of this approach.

Naturally, I read this passage in a moment of great personal weakness and have already ordered Smith’s The Structure of the Visual Book, even going so far as to hit the ‘instant gratification’ button on Amazon.com, so that book should be in my hands late Monday.

In the meantime, I highly recommend Holleley’s book. It’s opening my eyes to a lot of book design issues, which is nice but also will complicate my SoFoBoMo efforts.

Oh, well. Ain’t nothing easy.

6 Responses

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  1. Ed Richards said, on February 9, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    You can dive in and not come up for air for months. I did this some years ago when I started writing books – I really wanted to understand the process. Just pull back before you get into fine art binding, or you may never remember that swamp you were draining.:-)

  2. Billie said, on February 9, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    I have Smith’s book On structure and also his book on Text in a book. Reading them takes you an a mental journey of possibilities. There are lots of wonderful quotes in The Structure of a Visual Book and I doubt I have ever thought of a book in the same way since I read it.

  3. Paul Butzi said, on February 9, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Just pull back before you get into fine art binding, or you may never remember that swamp you were draining.:-)

    Ah. Is that why my copy is inscribed “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate”? My Italian is a little rusty.

  4. Will Clark said, on February 9, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    With Holleley’s help, I leapt a mental chasm between “book by a publisher” to “book made by me”. Freedom of the press is yours. You own the press (Epson, HP, Canon), you have the mentors (Holleley, Smith, et. al.) and you have total quality control in your hands. After Doug Holleley’s workshop at Anderson Ranch Arts Center I am a free man. Google “Talas” for tools and supplies. Prosit! Will Clark

  5. Paul said, on February 9, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Keep reading, my friend! Keep reading. I’m riding your coat tails! šŸ™‚ I, too, have headed in directions that I never dreamed of. I just received my copy of Book Design and Production. Very illuminating. It’s got me thinking about the layout of this SoFoBoMo book. Now, if I could only stick with a concept for more than a few minutes … what have I gotten myself into?!

  6. […] 11, 2008 After going through Holleley’s Book Design and Publishing, my brain was in that fevered state where it just spins from possibility to possibility, and […]


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