Reviewing the wide range of books received as gifts by members of the family this Christmas, I am struck that the quality of book production appears to have improved dramatically this year, compared with previous Christmases in the last decade. Top prize goes to Bloomsbury’s POLPO, by Russell Norman, handsomely designed by Praline, illustrated with georgeous photographs by Jenny Zarins and printed in China by C&C Offset Printing Plc. Sewn-bound, but without a spine, this large-format (slightly larger than octavo) book opens flat, making it an ideal recipe book, which is part of its purpose. Photographic repro is slightly disappointing, though. (It could be that the screen resolution for the pics isn’t optimised for the particular paper used; a lovely creamy matt coated blade). This is a delightful book to own – not just for its contents but also because it is a beautiful object, irresistibly opening at any page.
Richard Ingrams’ Quips and Quotes, published by The Oldie, also makes use of ivory paper (this year’s favourite paper?) and is nicely made by Butler and Tanner. Now here’s a thing: as it’s becoming economic to print in the UK again, will we see publishers – once again – taking more interest in the quality of book production and perhaps assuming closer control over the production process?
Here’s my prediction for 2013: printed books will become increasingly valued as attractive, user-friendly objects by book-buyers and readers, since the overwhelming convenience of eBooks will accelerate the shift to digital media for text-only works. This shift will leave more room in book shops, libraries, homes and offices for books that are not only beautiful but more attractive in print form than digital. And book reviewers might even start to comment on the production values of the books they discuss.
Publishers are, I think, waking up to the demands that this market trend requires – a commitment to good design, typography, skilled repro, careful choice of paper and high-quality printing and binding. Judging by the Christmas gifts we’ve received, the early signs are promising…