E-book design illuminated: Part 1

The world of e-book publishing today is a bit reminiscent of the World Wide Web of the mid-90s: the possibilities are fascinating, and there’s tremendous promise for new ways of communicating, but the roads there are still unpaved and littered with occasional potholes.

Tantra Illuminated Cover - 2nd ed_noflaps.inddI recently had the opportunity to create an e-book of Christopher Wallis’s Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition, a sprawling scholarly work on the history of early Tantrik thought.

From the outset, I knew this was destined to be an ambitious project. The book itself is very lengthy, with copious footnotes and margin notes—a design that does not lend itself well to the e-book format. In addition, it’s liberally sprinkled with English transliterations of old Sanskrit texts. These transliterations rely heavily on accented characters and diacritics, some of which prove challenging to e-book readers. And it also makes copious use of illustrations, diagrams, tables and charts, many of which have a level of detail that create difficulties for the low-resolution displays on e-book readers.

The project turned out to be far more daunting than I’d imagined, even knowing from the outset that it

Image hunting: Tips for sourcing historical images

At Talk Science to Me, we spend a lot of time sourcing images, both for our own use on our blog and website, and for our clients. The right image can be invaluable to a document, either by helping to break up long blocks of text or by giving the reader extra information about what they’re reading.

Statue of John Landy and Robert Bannister competing at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. This is one of the historical events captured on the new Hastings Park interpretive panels. (C) Paul Joseph, 2005 (CC BY 2.0)One of our recent projects gave us the opportunity to really put our image sourcing expertise to work. Talk Science was contracted by Public Architecture + Communication to find images for the new interpretive panels they are designing as part of the City of Vancouver’s Hastings Park project. We got to do some pretty neat

Request for proposals: Extreme e-book design

At Talk Science to Me, we often deal with projects that are deceptively complicated. That includes e-books. We’ve got an e-book project coming up that we think will challenge the skills of the most talented and experienced e-book designer. Think you’re up to the task? Please consider submitting a proposal.

Tantra Illuminated cover. © Ekabhūmi Ellik, 2012.The book is the second edition of Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History and Practice of a Timeless Tradition by Christopher D. Wallis. It’s a beautifully designed, masterfully researched 484-page volume based on original translations of thousand-year-old Sanskrit texts. It’s filled with images, endnotes, lists, tables, headers and subheads, cross-references, and diacritical marks—thousands of tiny details that we need to get just right.

Talk Science to Me wrote the index for Tantra Illuminated when the book was first published in 2012. When the original publisher, Anusara Press, folded the following year, we worked with Dr. Wallis to keep the book in print and publish a second edition. It’s been a labour of love for us: the author’s commitment to applying academic rigour and critical thinking to a subject that in the West has so often

Design style guides: Why you need one and how to make one

Whether you’re in the initial stages of building your brand or you’re well established and undertaking an overhaul, a design style guide is well worth considering.

Although it’s a non-trivial outlay in terms of both time and money, the headaches and expenses a design style guide can save you later on (starting pretty soon, actually) are tremendous. And beyond providing a template for consistent visual representation across the various media in which your branding will appear, creating a style guide will force you to make conscious decisions about exactly how every part of your company identity looks in every context—and why it looks that way.

A style is more than your logo, Check out this Stasi Museum style guide for seat cushions. © Anagoria 2012 (CC BY 3.0)Why go to the trouble of doing all of this? Because chances are, your brand identity is going to be handled by different people at different times. In addition to good file management and annotation, having a single comprehensive guide will make it much more likely that your website, social media profiles, print materials,

Typesetting matters

Typesetting and layout aren’t just important to how a document looks. They can also be vital to how easy it is to read. Content creators now have many options for handling these things themselves—everything from default themes in MS Word and Pages all the way up to TeX if you’re in a scientific field. But at Talk Science to Me, we still get a fair amount of work doing typesetting and layout, so I thought it would be worth explaining what you’re really paying for when you hire someone for these services, and what you can reasonably expect to get for your money.

A hand-lettered Latin Bible from 1407. Unsurprisingly, aspiring Bible owners were not encouraged to do their own calligraphy. Adrian Pingstone, 2005 (Public Domain)First of all, there’s a lot more to typography than laughing at Comic Sans and hating Papyrus. And while you probably do have some preferences of your own, as Seth Godin points out, “Typography in your work isn’t for you.” It’s for