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Tucson, Arizona, United States
I work as Panther Peak Bindery and am a bookbinder, conservator and instructor working outside Tucson, Arizona for individual and institutional clients across the country. I am a two term President of the Guild of Book Workers, was a Fulbright Scholar, taught at North Bennet Street School for over nine years and was the fastest in my middle school class at running up and down a flight of stairs (really!).



Monday, May 7, 2012

If I wanted exercise I'd just lift weights

I've been reading a paperback book, which I really like.  Well, I like the content anyway.

The problem is that the book doesn't open very easily, so after reading for several minutes my arms start getting tired and I put the book down.  Here is a picture of how the book opens on its own:

It's probably very clear to everyone that books should open more easily than that.  In fact they should just lay flat, not stay rigid and upright like this one does.  Why does this book not open?  

The paper, mainly.  Not to get too technical but the grain of the paper is going in the wrong direction so it doesn't drape.  In addition the gutter margin is too small, so it really has to be forced open to read the whole page.  Here's the gutter margin, when I'm reading the book my inclination isn't to force it open this wide so I end up twisting the book to real all the lines.

To take this picture I put a three pound weight on it so it would open enough.

Some might say it doesn't function correctly because it's an adhesive binding, but that's not really true.  I've read adhesive bindings recently that were not the hurculean struggle this one is.  Like any binding, the proper materials and structure are necessary for a happy book reading experience.

The source of this is no doubt due to people running publishing houses who know nothing about books.  They're making widgets in the shape of a book, and as long as they look like a book then they are happy.  It's only the readers who end up being unhappy.

And all I can think about this is to wonder if Nooks are winning over books because physical books are such crap these days.  Imagine if the competition for transportation was between a Yugo and something new and functional.  Not quite the same fight as between a Mercedes and the next new thing.

Yes, this book is a Yugo as are most mass produced books these days.

Here his how a book should open.  Easier to do on a sewn binding like this, but any book can be made to open properly.  The real issue is that you have to have a bit of knowledge and a bit of care, along with a bit of respect for the reader.

The one good thing about this book is that if I keep reading it (and I will) eventually my forearms are going to look like this:

Maybe that's what the publisher is going for, after all.

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