Book Biz: In Defense of Colophons, New Scrabble Words, 24 Hour Bookstores

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After a year or two in the book making business I ran into a page of copy I’d never seen before. It was entitled Colophon. My mentor, and friend, Patrick explained that a colophon was just a way to communicate significant information about the book including, but not limited to, the typeface, the name of the designer, the typesetter, the date of publication, the stock that was used for the text and cover, the printer, the binder and even the run length.

Often the Acknowledgment page in the front matter carries the burden of identifying and acknowledging the assistance of others that contributed to the book’s creation. But about the time the husband and children are being appreciated for their patience, I think something more formal might be more appropriate at times.

Perhaps adding a colophon to most trade paper titles may seem a bit much. The first book I printed with a colophon was a museum catalog for an upcoming show of the WPA Artists at the University of Michigan Art Museum. It was a well designed, classy job cover to cover. And right there, at the end of the book, with all the designers, editors, and paper stocks was our company name.

Do you think everyone in the plant paid special attention to that title as its production moved through their departments?

Deciding what titles would benefit from the addition of a colophon is difficult. Generally I think literature and art books would be the most common but non-fiction books that meet exceptional levels of content, manufacture and materials could acknowledge an array of editorial and structural providers.

I collect a lot of books and admit even most of the dustier ones lack a colophon, and the newer ones don’t reveal much except they were done in Asia.

It’s too bad.

Generally when printing offset books the page count involves adding a blank page or two in the back meaning page count and price wouldn’t be affected by adding a colophon page.

Let”s be honest. You know all the time spent designing your book, selecting text stocks, involving a trusted printer, etc. sets your book apart from others in the field.

Perhaps the addition of a colophon would not only acknowledge the craftsmanship involved in it’s production, but also inform the reader how the successful design was rendered.

Frederic W Goudy. "The alphabet; fifteen interpretative designs drawn and arranged with explanatory text and illustrations, by Frederic W Goudy" New York, M. Kennerley, 1918. 3 p. l., 5-44 p., 2 l. illus., 27 pl. 33 cm.
Frederic W Goudy. “The alphabet; fifteen interpretative designs drawn and arranged with explanatory text and illustrations, by Frederic W Goudy” New York, M. Kennerley, 1918. 3 p. l., 5-44 p., 2 l. illus., 27 pl. 33 cm.

Colophon - 2

Selling What You Don’t Own

Exactly what constitutes the purchase of an ebook remains in question, at least overseas. Dutch courts ruled that consumers can sell “software rights” and so Dutch bookseller Tom Kabinet offers second hand ebooks, upsetting the major Dutch publishers who have responded with a flurry of lawsuits.

Scrabble Pros take Notescrabble

As word and word usage evolves, it gets harder and harder to keep up with. The final arbiter on all Scrabble game words has just accepted around 6,500 new words. That’s over 10% of a college graduates entire vocabulary.

Independent Bookstores on the Rise

It’s heartening that the number of independent American bookstores is up 27% in the past five years. All better? Well, tiny little France supports more independents than the entire U.S.

Amazon Controls Your Books

When Audible (owned by Amazon) upgraded his app for listening to his books on his iPhone, this writer realized that by “buying” all his books from Amazon, he not only didn’t own his books, he couldn’t even control how he used them. Their football, their rules I guess.

Amazon and Audible Dictate Terms

Amazon has been unable to finalize a contract with the last of the big 5 publishers, Penguin Random House. Will it use the same “freeze out” it used against Hachette last year to force Penguin’s hand? Meanwhile, its subsidiary Audible is attempting to force German publishers to accept a new contract by threatening to stop offering their audio titles on Amazon.hashtag

# is Popular

Oxford University Press reviewed 500 words to find the most frequently used new word by children/youth authors. That would be hashtag.

BookstoreThriving Bookstores…in Asia

For whatever reason, this is the second article I’ve posted about bookstores open past midnight and packed with customers all the while. This store is in Tokyo, the former mention was a store in Taiwan. I can’t speak to the cultural differences, but I approve…and am a little jealous.

The Future of Scholarly/Academic Publishing

The world of scholarly journals has totally changed since I worked on Scripta Technica titles thirty five years ago. Paper and ink is on the decline, and large publishers like Elsevier, Taylor and Francis, and Wiley and Sons have come to dominate the field. Can the authors and researchers regain control? Is open access the solution?

The Changing Paper Market

Some domestic paper mills are booming, just not the ones that make the paper for your books. Just as the American paper manufactures have adapted to cleaner, more efficient technologies, the third world manufacturers have built brand new highly efficient, automated mills. Unfortunately, serial deforestation and poached rain forest pulp is all too common no matter how modern the factory.

DRM, the UK and eBooks

British publishers have successfully prosecuted foreign online booksellers (including Virgin Media and Sky) for copyright violations of eBooks or eBook content. The sites purportedly have over 10 million eBook titles available on their web sites.

Final Thoughts

It wasn’t until I started reading and found books they wouldn’t let us read in school that I discovered you could be insane and happy and have a good life without being like everybody else. ― John Waters


About Wayne Johnson 69 Articles
I've worked in book manufacturing for over 30 years, closing my company Baker Johnson, Inc. in 2005. Currently I work freelance with a large group of publishers, advising them on the printing options available to them as the book industry endures major restructuring. My wife Cathy is a retired psychologist and spent most of her career working with the youth at Maxey Boys Training School. She is a small mammal rehabilitator with Friends of Wildlife. Our daughter Whitney is a PharmD working in the Denver area evaluating the pharmaceutical requirements of nursing homes. Our son Eliot lives in Waterloo and is an editor at Mathematical Reviews in Ann Arbor.