This is a continuation of a series of posts that I started what seems like a long time ago about getting a book designed and published. The series starts here.
Almost all of the photos in the Staccato series are wider than they are high. Many are a great deal wider than the image height. If you want a book that fits in most shelves, you’re limited to 12 to 14 inch page widths, and 14 is pushing it. So I understand completely why Jerry designed the book with images that spread from one page to the facing one; to do otherwise would have made the images too small, and they would have floated miserably in a sea of whiteness.
Running images through the gutter – as designers call the center of the two page spread — requires that the pages lie fairly flat. Otherwise the distortion of the image is ugly, shadows cast by the pages near the spine fall on the image, and, in extreme cases, you can’t see the image content near the spine of the book.
So I was really interested to get a good look at the book mockup. That’s a book with blank pages and a blank cover, but with the same paper, the same number of signatures, the same binding methods, and the same cover material as the real book will have. You can hold it in your hands and see what the heft is like. You can see if the pages feel right when you turn them. And you can see how flat they lie. That last bit was what was foremost on my mind when I opened the package containing the Staccato mockup.
I didn’t like what I saw.
It did get a little better as I leafed through the book and the pages loosened up, but it never got to what I’d call acceptable. I took a look at the bottom of the book as it lay on a table opened to a page in the middle of the book. The signatures are sewn to a piece of cloth that forms the spine of the book. One side of the cloth is attached to the hard front cover of the book. The other I attached to a piece of paper that slides in a slot on the back cover of the book. The idea is that the cloth spine can flex upwards meaning that the facing pages to which the book is open don’t need to drop down all the way to the level of the spine on both ends of the book, and they’ll lie flatter.
The cloth spine wasn’t bending at all. Oops.
I went to my bookshelf and dug up a photo book about as thick as Staccato; it was the Robinson Jeffers/West Coast Photo Gods book. This was an old copy. The construction technique was the same, but the cloth spine bent upwards nicely when the book was opened.
I called Jerry and complained. Jerry called Hemlock. Hemlock said that they had a meeting with the bindery, and would bring up the issue.
And that’s where it stands. I’m hoping we can ge a more flexible material for the spine.