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A Monolothic Wrongness

I’m guilty of many things, not the least of which is a tendency to rush to judgement, although I do tend to think things through before I express that judgement in public.

Which brings me to PD Smith’s City.


A piece of design, from Bloomsbury, that is as near perfect in print as I’ve seen for some time. From the jacket through to the interior photography and how that’s used in terms of monoprints, double-page spreads, abstracts and to the use of additional, ancillary information within the design, it’s a lovely piece of work.

Which is crippled by eBook conversion. It simply can’t work, and in trying, really exposes a set of weaknesses that aren’t the fault of the book’s design team – although in transferring City to a digital text they are at least complicit in not considering the specific mechanisms and differences that operate within a digital reading environment – but rather are the fault of an industry selling conversion services as if that were the answer to everyone’s problems.

Baldur is much better on the many faults of the eBook ecosystem but first among them, for me, is the unchallenged assumption that replicating the book in a digital landscape is the principal game in town. We’re starting to see exceptions to that monolithic wrongness –Storycuts come to mind – but they’re rare and need nurturing.

I wish the team at Bloomsbury well – they’re eager for a better solution, for a digital and print ecosystem in which aping the features of one platform in another isn’t the sole solution, but a better solution is complicated and bound up in a shift away from the safety of a model of publishing that sees digital as another market, rather than another medium.

That’s got to change.

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One comment for “A Monolothic Wrongness”

  1. [...] who produced the abominable eBook edition of PD Smith’s beautifully designed City (see here) (I will concede that the Kindle and iBooks editions have improved since launch, although both [...]

    Posted by other things | Do no harm | April 16, 2014, 10:05 am

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