Musings on Photography

Left Hand/Right Hand, and Print/Online

Posted in Adobe InDesign, book design, PDF, Print On Demand by Paul Butzi on August 24, 2009


As always, learning by doing certainly beats sitting and theorizing.

I have figured out my problems with margins, gutter, spreads, and left hand and right hand pages. The answer, it turns out, lies in InDesign’s somewhat nonintuitive way of handling left hand and right hand pages.

Let me expound. Suppose you have an empty document, and then create a whole bunch of pages in it all at once. The first page created will be a ‘right hand’ page, and InDesign indicates this by displaying the icon for that page in the ‘pages’ pane set over to the right. The second page will be a left hand page, and the third will be a right hand page, fourth a left hand page, and fifth a right hand page, and so on. All this makes perfect sense.

Now, let’s suppose you insert a page into the document, BETWEEN two pages that currently form a spread. This new page forces all of the subsequent pages to change partners. However, the ‘left page’ or ‘right page’ property of a page is FIXED AT THE TIME THE PAGE IS CREATED, so now you have a bunch of left hand pages which fall on the right hand side of spreads, and also a bunch of right hand pages that fall on the left side of spreads. And, as you expect, this produces chaos.

The moral of the story that you never want to do anything that will make a left hand page move to the right hand side of a spread, or right hand page move to the left hand side. This means you should NEVER drag pages around, only spreads. If you need to move content from one side of a spread to the other, move the content, not the page.

Figuring this out was another few hours of my life down a rat hole. Of course, once I’d figured it out, it was EASY and FAST to look in my books on InDesign and confirm it.

In other news, having puzzled this out, I am engaged in building version 2 of my template, being careful of left hand and right hand, and building the master pages as spreads. This has both complicated the template and made it simpler, as you would expect.

And as I’m approaching the finish line, the issues I’ve been punting down the road (“I’ll hand that when I know more about it…”) are now confronting me.

Most of these are print versus online issues:

  • In the print world, you have a ‘gutter’ on the spine side of a page, to compensate for the fact that because the book is bound, you can’t lay the spread flat, and so you need to lay out the page with a bit more space on the inside of the page than the outside, so that it looks balanced. Online, you do not need to do this. Do I build one template, and include a gutter, and just let it look slightly weird online? Or do I try to figure out a way to have one template, but I adjust it according to whether the target is print or online?
  • The copyright page for a print document (portfolio or book) should really have the ISBN, the Library of Congress Catalog card number, and specify where the book was printed. All that info is either irrelevant or silly for an online publication, I THINK. Or maybe not.

  • Typically, a printed book will have a bastard title page, either a blank page or a frontispiece, a full title page, the copyright page, and then a half title page. Having three title pages seems excessive for a print document, where the reasons for the multiple title pages have vanished. So it seems you end up with different front matter for printed books and the online versions of books, or at least portfolios and books which are targeted exclusively for online viewing.

I’ve got no clarity on those issues. If you have insights, please share!

3 Responses

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  1. Eric Jeschke said, on August 25, 2009 at 12:31 am

    For my book, the print version had extra space assigned to the inside gutter, while the web version did not. I think it looks better in the resulting Blurb book, and as most of these books do not have a lay-flat binding helps out in the way that you describe.

    The web version kept all the extra front matter simply because I wanted to showcase the PDF as a book. The folio obviously dispenses with most of the front matter and text. With the folio I didn’t go with spreads, because the idea (for me) was a box/folder/packet of prints, with minimal front and back matter (example here).

    As you can see, I did put a small copyright notice on the front matter in the folio. Seemed like the prudent thing to do.

  2. Chris said, on August 25, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    It’s a bit of a geekout solution, but Docbook might be the way to go for you.

  3. John said, on August 26, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Personally, I would optimize each for their presentation format, even it is means having two versions. It’s a one-time effort with no more that a couple hours extra work. I’d finalize the print version first. But I would include guides in the master pages for the version without the extra gutter margin. You’d have to manually shift the pictures, but with the guides that should go pretty quick. Front matter in printed books varies a lot, so you have some flexibility. I’d set up the front matter so I could remove pairs of pages and avoid the left-right page shifting. I see not problem having the ISBN in the online version. You could even add a note mentioning the print version.


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