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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rework

Design credit to come
Buy this book from Amazon.com

Web applications company 37 Signals posted the design of their forthcoming book Rework on their blog Signal vs. Noise a few days ago. There's a pretty lively discussion going on, with a number of readers addressing the design. Folks are showing a little more love for the back cover than the front, a sentiment with which I agree, but perhaps that's because I'm still held in the sway of Gray318's towering, slogan-driven redesign for Nineteen Eighty-Four. The back of Rework would have made for a ballsy front cover, especially for a business title.

Front cover:


Back cover:


There's an interesting tangential discussion in the Signals thread about the absence and eventual placement of a bar code on the back cover. Removable stickers are mentioned, which immediately had me scurrying to my bookshelves to see if any books I own have a bar code sticker (in lieu of a printed-on-the-jacket bar code). I didn't find any, but I do have to ask two possibly ignorant questions:

1) Bar code stickers: if not, why not? Yes, someone can pull the switcheroo in a bookstore, but couldn't the person working the register be on the lookout for this?

2) Are bar codes ever placed on the inside front or back flap? If not, why not? (It's been awhile since I've bought a book that's shrink-wrapped; maybe shrink wrap is the reason. But that brings us back to the sticker...)

(Full disclosure, BTW: The Book Design Review is a 37 Signals affiliate program member.)

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Answer to your questions: costs. Printing the bar code on the cover is free. Stickers (printing and sticking thereof) would cost additional. Printing on the inside of the cover also costs additional. And at the end of the day do you want to spend money on bar codes rather than aesthetics?

Joseph said...

Ah, there you go. Thanks.

hobart said...

Hey. Good question, and I just love the blog in general.

I'm a pretty small publisher, but we've barcode-stickered both books we've published. Haven't had any issues although, again, we're pretty small and not being carried by the big bookstores. I'm a sucker for keeping the look of the books clean and self-contained though, and when I sell the books through the site or at bookfairs or whatnot, I can leave them barcodeless, which is kind of fun.

http://www.hobartpulp.com/minibooks

Actually, I think McSweeney's often uses stickers or puts the barcode on a bellyband of something of that ilk, now that I think about it. It's possible I stole the idea from them without really realizing.

Joseph said...

Hobart: I was thinking last night as I was writing this post that if anyone does it, it's probably McSweeney's.

Anonymous said...

There is a new Barnes and Noble barcode standard that has gone into effect — making it so the barcode needs to be placed on the lower right hand side of the back cover with prices listed, to avoid fees. The size requirement is annoying and takes up too much space.

Joseph said...

Interesting. Thanks, Anon.

RIan Murnen said...

As best I can recall, Borders, Barnes & Noble and Powell's (here in Portland) place their own barcode stickers over the pre-print barcode.

So why pre-print it?

Joseph said...

Rlan: I know I've removed tons of stickers from books, but I just can't remember if they had bar codes on them. Really having a brain fart on this one...

wheelmaker said...

Barnes & Noble does not put stickers over the printed barcodes unless there's some special reason, but Borders and some bookstores that have different scanning or computer systems do.
I personally don't like stickers much because they never come off cleanly and they always get dingy or raggedy looking if left on.

Joseph said...

I was in Borders yesterday. They put stickers on *everything.*

alvaro said...

In my personal experience, the only people concerned with the location on the barcode are the distributors. They have regulations for this (surely not defined by designers, especially if you look at magazine distro regs for barcode: FRONT cover. Gross...), and failing to follow those regs, they sticker your book for you and then bill and/or fine you. The bottom line is, indies have leeway to do what they want, but as soon as they want to try and get wide distribution, there's not much to do but follow the rules of the non-indies.

Barcode stickers are definitely an option to guard the purity of a cover. See McSweeney's titles such as Happy Baby, All Known Metal Bands, Quarterly vol 24. They do cost extra to print and to apply. But the cost is worth it if you're going for keepsake book object rather than disposable reader or if you're doing things such as silk screening or foil stamping instead of printing the cover.

But there's another option too. Somewhere between the sticker and the dust jacket is the 1-color book band. It holds all that blurby-markety copy and the barcode, it is connected to the book by look and size (avoiding in-store mixups), and its purpose ends the second you buy the book, so you can recycle it without guilt. See What Is the What and the McSweeney's Rectangulars series.

alan said...

Came in to post about Powell's, but it's been covered.

Rob said...

I enjoyed the book, and even wrote a review of it myself. I never thought to comment on the cover design, but I think that you are dead-on. The back would have made a better front than the front did, but I do see a downside. What would have gone on the back? A typical "read this book" series of testimonies? A picture of the authors? Not the wadded up piece of paper, obviously. In all, the way they choose to go does work well.

See my review at http://robchristeson.com/?p=1279