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That NightJack book

2011 July 30

Received a number of packages this week. A blu-ray player. A set of HDMI cables. A box of fluorescent light bulbs which arrived out of the blue, sent by the power company, which should keep me in CFLs until doomsday considering that I have a southwest-facing corner apartment with lots of windows and just don’t use that much electric lighting…

But the most exciting by far was the box from Lulu containing the very first printed copy of NightJack: An English Detective!

Back and front covers of print-version 'NightJack'

It's here, it's here... it's full of typos that I missed...

And now I suppose that I should pause to note that, after receiving input from the author and reflecting on the matter, I’m going to post a link to the book page on lulu.com. Anyone who wants their own print copy of NightJack can purchase one here. Please note that:

  • Neither the author nor I will make any money from your purchase; if you feel like expressing your appreciation, please consider making a donation to the Police Dependants’ Trust.
  • You can read all of the material (aside from my glorious introduction) online, gratis, at this archive of the NightJack blog.
  • Reading through my own copy of the book, I’m picking up many typos which I failed to catch before; if you wait a week or so you’ll get a revised edition with lots of corrections. 🙂

Anyway, returning to the printed object itself, let’s start with the good: This looks nice. It looks very nice, especially for $10.50. The whole thing looks crisp and sharp, which I’d expected, though it’s still cool to have in-hand as a physical object. The cover has this amazing glossy sheen, though, which in combination with the areas of flat black shapes, just looks gorgeous. Oh, it also shipped crazy-fast; I uploaded my files and ordered a copy in the morning and received a shipping notice that evening. Wow.

Another photo of me lovely book

Oooh, imagine that classy spine on your bookshelf!

That said, the quibbles: The color did shift quite a bit on the cover. From fairly warm grays, it acquired a kind of greenish cast, perhaps even more evident on the light-colored back cover. I can’t say I’m shocked, of course. From my print experience, I think trying to print “rich” neutral colors like this as a CMYK “build” is notoriously unstable; for a big print run something like this would call for a press check and possibly even printing as a spot-color quadtone rather than CMYK. For an inexpensive POD product, of course, this is impractical and so I can certainly live with the results; anyone other than me would probably never even notice. At least the tonal range is correct, rather than super-heavy black like the online preview image.

I also find that this is printed on a bright white paper, which is not my ideal choice for books, and is moreover considerably different from the warm-white paper in my paperback edition of Comic Book Fanthropology, also from lulu.com. I believe this was printed on “Lulu Standard Paper,” which I believe was the only choice available for the book format I selected; friend Sean has speculated that Lulu freely substitutes papers for a given spec anyway, so who knows.

Oh well. All-in-all, making this book was a blast, and I’m happy with the result. I will definitely be doing more projects like this in future. Having completed a DIY book, now, I will try to be a bit more daring in future efforts also; on NightJack I played it pretty “safe” typographically as it felt like just getting the basics right was enough challenge. (It’s funny, you can read thousands of books, then you sit down and realize that you can’t define the various conventions of a “proper” book without looking.) For NightJack I didn’t use any ornament or visual punctuation, etc., and stuck to Garamond and Univers for the type. Which almost feels laughably timid. (Especially given the pairing’s close resemblance to Garamond and Futura, the notoriously-frequent choices of one goody-goody classmate at dear auld ISU. She’s probably art director of a major national magazine now.) Safe and dependable have their place, though; I drive a Toyota Camry after all. I think the choice was a good one here.

But, yeah, I’ll try to get a bit more creative next time.

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