Thursday, 10 September 2009

The black and white book

Mark Batty, writing in Forbes on ebooks, and the Amazon Kindle in particular, stresses the monochrome, one-dimensional quality of the electronic product. Exactly the same things were lost when books moved from manuscript to print: for several hundred years almost all printed books were black and white, and incunabula certainly had a restricted range of type sizes and styles when compared to the richness of manuscript:

‘Disadvantages? It mostly contains words, not pictures, and not in color. The content available is somewhat limited so far to topics in popular demand – health, money, sports, hobbies, news analysis, baby names. Conventional text titles, such as fiction, biography and history, are gaining traction, however, especially in certain niches, such as romance fiction, which comes in strengths from flaccid to super-steamy – and the latter has the advantage of coming to you digitally, wirelessly and confidentially, although, alas, also unillustrated.

‘What you read on the Kindle is all gray – a few shades of relatively low-resolution gray. It's always set in Caecilia, not a bad font in its own right, but what you get on the screen is words, not design. Whether your reading matter is racy, mind-numbingly violent, ingeniously obtuse or an auto parts list, it all looks the same. A purpose of type is to help evoke appropriate feeling though a pleasing but unobtrusive design. The fact that the Kindle can’t do this today indicates that it is not yet a book at all.’

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