May 28, 2005
-- by Dave Johnson
Kevin Drum went to the bookstore to find a good book on American history. He found one, but it was set in 9-point type and was too hard to read, so he put it back on the shelf. He guesses that the publisher was trying to save money on paper. He put it back on the shelf. I suspect that some marketing weenie (disclaimer, I'm allowed to say that) got a bonus for reducing the cost of goods. Short-term, money saved. Longer-term, sales dry up.
It reminds me of all the stores, airports, etc. that "save money" by buying really cheap, thin toilet (scratchy) paper. Sure, it costs less per roll. But why don't they "get it" that people have to use FOUR TIMES AS MUCH PAPER?! Buyng that stuff doesn't save money, it forces people to use so much more that your real costs probably goes up. Short-term, save some money. Longer-term, it costs more. Duh!
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The typography of Penguin paperback books was established by the reknown type designer Jan Tschiold, and is widely studied in graphic design classes as an example of how typography should be done to produce the most legible product possible. If you can't read Penguin Books, they problem is not in the typesetting, you need new eyeglasses.
Posted by: Charles at May 28, 2005 6:03 PM
Oops, my bad, that should be "Jan Tschichold."
Posted by: Charles at May 28, 2005 6:07 PM
To be fair to Kevin Drum, the American imprint called Penguin hasn't used the classic Tschichold design templates on most of its frontlist titles for some time. I don't know whether or not it was used in the book Kevin bought.
I would also note that pagecount and pricing decisions tend to be made by very senior people at book publishers, not "marketing weenies". Finding the right balance of length-to-legibility-to-price is one of the major skills entailed in being a publisher. Of course publishers, being human, get it wrong all the time; but it's not a decision generally delegated to "weenies".
Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden at May 29, 2005 5:56 AM
The short-term savings vs long-term gain is one that's writ large over all of US business decisions. Note the Wal-Mart "treat your employees like dirt" strategy that almost certainly drives up costs due to high staff turnover -- it only works at all when there are no other jobs available. Also, the corporate funding of the REpublican war on the middle class will eventually gut the consuming class in this country, and then where will they find customers? China?
Posted by: mamayaga at May 29, 2005 7:02 AM
Penguin's design came about in World War II, to help with the war effort by cutting down on waste.
Posted by: gmanedit at May 29, 2005 7:37 AM
I *hate* cheap toilet paper... I've often vowed that if I'm ever a commercial landlord, I'm going to NOT skimp on the toilet paper. Just leaves a bad taste in my mouth (metaphorically speaking).
As for where the replacement for the consuming class in this country is going to come from... China and India. Several hundred million more emerging middle class folks who need *everything*, and are eager eager eager to buy it.
Posted by: Thomas Leavitt at May 29, 2005 7:05 PM
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