Book Design Choices I Dislike

I read physical books, still, quite a bit. One might say I do most of my reading in them. That may or may not be true, but it is true for most of my long-form reading. And there are a few things I notice bookmakers doing that I just can’t understand. I would assume that, aside from actually selling you a thing that you want to read, a bookmaker’s job would primarily be to provide you with the best possible reading experience. And many publishers do (my favorite-feeling books are regular Penguins, though sometimes Penguin makes mistakes, too.) And while none of these things will ever drive me away from reading physical books, they seem like easy-to-fix things that the printers would think about.

My least favorite of the three things I’ll mention are deckled edges. I cannot fathom why they still exist when I know that we easily have the capacity to produce nicely squared-off books. If it’s an older volume I’ll let it slide, but what are my brand new, just from the bookstore copies doing with this unprofessional edge? It looks like they don’t know what they’re doing. To some it might make them feel, I don’t know, “nostalgic”, for lack of a better word. But the uneven pages are just a nuisance, it’s hard to keep, find, or even turn a page, which I do quite often when reading a book. It also makes then not fit nicely against the back of bookshelf, I don’t understand why they are there, they only detracts from the reading experience and is so easily avoidable.

Not quite as antiquated or problematic, but just as nonsensical, are dust covers. I will never understand who invented them in the first place, but removal of the dust cover is phase one of reading a hardback book, and feeling bad about completely ruining it is at least one phase at some point in the reading. They just don’t do anything. They protect nothing, and at this point, printer tech has advanced enough that we can print high-quality images right on the book’s cover. I guess they do allow one to swap between the flashy, bookstore cover, and the classical library cover, but who in the world does that? I’ve only ever ripped the things or laid them next to me when reading. I guess they can serve as a bookmark, too, if you want to bend them out of shape.

And least annoying, and only really annoying to those with collections, as it affects the reading of the book in no way, is the inconsistency in the graphic design of series spines. This is especially true before the boxed sets of series are released, when sometimes two books in the same series are released with different spine heights. This is also the most excusable because I know that many people and companies can’t predict the exact time between two books in a series, or if a book will even be a series at all. But, still, a little more consistency would help my shelves a lot. And looking at little problems like that irk me. But I will still read boks, so the publishers have me there

Gender Based Notebooks?

I’m an avid notebook user. I love all types of notebooks, though I’ll admit I’m partial to blank paper, and hardbacked, black books. I’ve used some of the most well-known and best books in the medium-price range. But I’ll still try most anything out. I have several notebooks that are bound flimsily, have paper that tears or bleeds through, and other problems. Most people don’t notice those, but they do notice when I have a pink notebook. People think that me, as a man, wouldn’t like to carry a pink or purple book. I’d say there are many problems that make notebooks unusable long before the color of the cover comes into consideration, even if pink isn’t my first choice.

Now this might be something that one simply has to take into consideration when buying notebooks. After all, most stationery stores that aren’t for office supplies and therefore have a very neutral atmosphere, are geared toward women. At least, that’s the way it seems. With their natural to pastel colors, slightly awkward layout, and all-female staff, they make me feel slightly nervous when walking in. It’s like I’m not the one that’s supposed to be there. Not that I’m really comfortable in most store scenarios, but at least I’m expected.

Why is that, though? Paper products, while not directly advertised toward women, are much more “feminine” in style, or neutral (if the choice must be made). Maybe that’s because the only manly notebook is black. I’d laugh at a gunmetal or camo pattern, though there are some less-pink/bright colors of notebooks that I’d like to buy. And that’s the thing, really, for me. I don’t mind many notebooks being more female-oriented, but what I don’t want is one that really sticks out. I don’t mind using a pink or lime notebook, but I’d rather one that was mahogany, or a pear green, or even a dull pink instead of a bright one.
All of the colors just look synthetic and stick out to me. And people notice them and think they’re strange. Did I pick up my girlfriend’s notebook? No, who would ever accidentally do that, who has a notebook that isn’t personal enough that it can be loaned out, even a school one? And people look at me funny for something that is considered “different” for me to do.

The color of the notebook in no way affects the writing experience to be contained within, but I still wish there were some more easily obtainable, subdued colors.

I guess, though, that’s more because I want to blend in, to hide in the crowd and not stick out. I don’t want people picking me out of a crowd because of my notebook’s color, and even less if they think negatively about it. I’ll still use them to try them out, but I always have old standbys for serious use.

That’s just me, I guess. Perhaps many people do want to stand out with the color of their notebooks, but having a notebook now almost seems to make you stand out enough.
My question, though, would be: are notebooks more female items in popular culture? Do manufacturers have a more female audience in mind when creating new products? I’m fine with there being many girl-oriented books, and even some manufacturers. I just wish there were more making plain type books, that are easier to… conceal, I guess. I want more notebooks in general, not more that are just geared toward me or any other specific group.

I can’t say for sure one way or the other, but I know very few men who use anything beyond a small pocket notebook, while many of the women I know have a stack of cheap “accessory” notebooks. My notebook collection certainly is an oddity to most people still, which I enjoy. And I also notice that online, more users for notebook-related forums or retailers are male. An interesting reversal, as online it is much easier to find plain brown and black books than in the wild.

If I were to have to answer my question right now it would be no, if we’re counting all sources here. But I could be right or wrong. This isn’t a formal study of who uses notebooks (now that’s an idea, someone get on that). I can’t give hard answers, but that’s why I use notebooks: to keep all of the thoughts and organize them later, not in any physical sense, but you probably get the idea. I’ll keep writing and thinking, from pink to black.

The Book I had to have with Me at My Apartment (Of Mice and Men)

I moved recently and seem to not be able to shut up about it. So I might as well talk some more.

I like to read books, physical books, because I’d have to destroy each one individually by accident to lose them all. I guess there are several other reasons, too, but my point is that I had to move books with me when I was moving. Selecting the books I wanted to bring was hard. I had allocated myself only one box of books maximum to avoid overburdening myself, but one box only holds twenty or so books, and I own well over a thousand.

I selected my books to bring based on aesthetics (I collect the Shambala Pocket Classics and the Barnes and Noble Collectors Library books because they look great on the shelf together), interest (I just picked up the closest books that I thought I wanted to read, which was a lot of nonfiction, which would surprise the me of three years ago), and necessity (I write articles on the internet and do a comic about WWII tanks, so a dictionary and German Tanks of WWII were very much required). I packed these 37 books into a box and took them with me. This was all done in a rush, as I was under a strict time limit.

They look so much better than the pages read

They look so much better than they read

When I got to my new place I and unpacked everything, I thought nothing of the books and put them on the shelves. It was only later, when going through a bookstore, that I realized I had forgotten something vitally important to me and proceeded to buy one immediately

That was a copy of Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, which is easily my favorite book of all time and must be with me everywhere. I’m not sure the copy matters, but the book does, and knowing that my original copy is sitting somewhere in my library is of great relief to me.

This cover is forever in my mind

This cover is forever in my mind

I’m not going to review Of Mice and Men here, though I may do that in the future. I just want to say a few things about why it’s my favorite book and why I had to have it with me at my new place.

I first read Of Mice and Men quite some time ago when I was vacationing in New Mexico. We’d gone to town for an afternoon before returning to our camp and had stopped in a used book store. I’ve always loved cartoons and therefore I’d picked up several newspaper comics collections. I don’t know exactly how I ended up picking up a copy of Steinbeck, but I do remember having seen one at the house before and that it seemed small enough for a person of my age to get through in a reasonable amount of time on a camping trip. (Though either just before or just after reading Of Mice and Men I read Jurassic Park on a week-long vacation). I (my parents) bought the book and I didn’t look at it for the rest of the day, preferring to look at cartoons as they were easier to read in the car. I only opened it when I got back and was about to go the sleep in my tent.

I read that book in three sessions, evening, morning, and evening. All told it took me only a couple of hours and I was thoroughly engrossed. I read that book faster than I have read 100 pages of any other book no matter my interest level. I thought it was amazing on first read.

I noticed a lot of things that generally were present in what I was expected to read (but I read Jurassic Park around that time like I said, so I didn’t exactly do as expected). The book treated the reader like both an intelligent and empathetic person, while using simple enough language that almost anyone could understand it. It wasn’t hard to understand what was going on, what the characters were saying and doing, and why they were doing it. But it still managed to make the relationships between them very interesting and developed. The various themes of the novel are presented in a way that packs quite a few thought-provoking observations and events into a small package without beating the reader over the head with them. In that way it made me feel more than any book or story that simply tells me something happened. I cared for and understood why George and Lenny made the decisions they made.

I didn’t really notice the swearing when I first read it. They say “bitch” a lot. I only really noticed it when I read it in a class in middle school, and the kids each read a page out loud. Everyone said something to cover up the swear words (I never read, because I never wanted too, but I would’ve just read them, and that would’ve surprised some people I knew, I bet). That made me realize how well the book goes together and how much not including everything takes away from it. Every word in the book is tied to every other word, getting all the information across in the fastest and best possible way. Adding any word would be a mistake, as would taking out any word.

The book, in length (just over 100 pages), language, character development, and overall story is absolutely perfect, at least in my opinion. It is most certainly my favorite book and, like my favorite movie (the Great Escape), nothing has even come close to knocking it down. Having a copy with me at all times reminds me what the best I’ve ever seen of something is. And reading it each time is as enjoyable and sad and thought-provoking as the last. It is a wonderful book that I believe everyone should have a copy of. It’s certainly small enough to not be a bother, but the impact it leaves is far more than its mass would indicate.