Saturday, 7 July 2012

Dictionary goodness

Today I decided to see how a physical dictionary compared with the electronic dictionary on my kindle. For this extremely scientific test, I decided to give the hardcopy dictionary the best chances possible, so I recruited my brother to use the kindle (as he's never used one before), and I used the hardcopy dictionary. The only hardcopy dictionary floating around was an old dictionary, this one to be specific:
It has one very handy feature, namely these indented 'steps' that make it easy to quickly find a particular section:
The kindle, in comparison, comes with a built-in dictionary. Once you've opened it, all you need to do is start typing in the word. Like so:

So let's see how the two compare (the times are in seconds):
I've highlighted the winner for each word. Initially my brother's inexperience with the kindle made him slower than the dictionary, but he very quickly became familiar with it, and after that there was no beating him. What's surprising about this result is not that the kindle was faster, but that the physical dictionary is not very much slower (I suspect those in-built indents help a lot). With a larger dictionary, the speed difference would of course increase substantially.

Layout-wise, the hard-copy dictionary is much more aesthetically pleasing, but the kindle layout is less cramped as it doesn't have to fit multiple definitions on each page.

By far the fastest and easiest electronic dictionary to use, however, is the online one. The search box is easy to find, and you can quickly type in words using the keyboard.
Once you've found your word, you get a lot of information, but it's very easy to navigate. To the right a box pops up with related words that you might be interested in.

Textured children's book

Here's a twist on an old classic with Hairy Maclary and Friends: a Touch and Feel Book.

Each page of this book has a textured element, clearly designed to appeal to very young children. This tactile experience is also something that can't be simulated by an ebook.

Because of the extra physical material glued into each page, the pages are very thick and board-like, also suitable for young children who may not have the fine motor skills to be gentle with thin pages.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Another oddly sized book

Here's Awa Press' The Owl that Fell from the Sky. The very first thing I noticed about it was its odd size - it's approximately the height of an A-format paperback, but much wider ( 170 x145mm), giving it an almost square appearance.

Aside from the format, the cover design is lovely with a simple black/white/teal colour palette. The only part I question is what appears to be a strange ligature between 's' and 't' - it distracts from the otherwise clean-cut nature of the cover design.

Looking at a page-spread, the margins have been chosen to create a text panel with relatively traditional proportions, rather than the square-ish proportions of the book. This measure works well, without needing too many hyphens (I can't actually see any on this page-spread). I also note the use of the em rather than en dash - this seems appropriate, as the em dash is slightly more old-fashioned, and this book is about museum specimens.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Unusual running feet

I found this rather charming example of running feet in this book The Calculus Diaries. The arrow design fits with the maths focus of the book, but it's not obtrusive. It also ties in with the heading designs. The page numbers are probably slightly harder to find when casually flicking through the pages, but the arrows mean they're well-connected to the corner of the page where most people would be used to finding them.

Monday, 2 July 2012

A really really big book

There's coffee table books, and then there's this monstrosity:
In Unity Books, The Art Museum has its own stand it's so enormous:
This book is nearly 1000 pages long, 42cm tall, 32cm wide and 7cm thick. And it's heavy - it weighs nearly 8kgs according to the internet. It's so big that its form affects its function - its so unwieldy to flick through that why would anyone bother? It's also a very expensive book, retailing at over $200.

The paper is also really thin, so it's not exactly the kind of book you can easily leaf through - I'd worry about tearing the pages.

An additional note - the designer was clearly keen to show off the grid layout of this book, because even I can see it.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Hyphenation madness

I'm not even sure how I stumbled across this, but I found an extraordinary example of why paying attention to those hyphenation settings when typesetting is important. I've taken a close-up photo of a page from The Better Angels of Our Nature that is fairly representative of the hyphenation problem present throughout the book. It's particularly strange because it shouldn't be a problem based on the measure (which is perfectly adequate for the size of the text).