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The Perfect Typeface

uczcbsv24 March 2014

As future publishers, we are not only looking for great content, we also want things to look pretty… Here is a fun and handy guide to choosing the perfect typeface for any type of project, including books! Which fonts are your favourites?

Seen on Adobe InDesign’s Twitter page @InDesign on 24/03/2014.

Books Are My Bag – part 5

uczcbsv16 March 2014

Bookshops Are My Bag
Written by Anneliese O’Malley

It was a pretty cushy assignment for the first week of UCL’s Publishing MA – to spend several hours observing and interviewing customers in independent bookshops. We got to know some booksellers, we got to know some readers, and both groups had interesting and complex views of the health and wellbeing of bookshops and print books.

My group’s experiences were marked by the fact that we visited specialist bookshops with a developed customer base. We began our day at French’s Theatre Bookshop, which not only sells books but also publishes scripts and sells rights to those putting on productions. Situated between RADA and the University for the Creative Arts, they are well-placed to take advantage of the local student population, and many of the customers we ran into were either current students or alumni. The shop also hosts a range of readings and events.

In terms of Books Are My Bag, posters and flyers were displayed prominently, but the shop had run out of bags days before our visit. The bags themselves had prompted a great deal of curiosity from customers, though many hadn’t heard of the campaign before visiting the shop. Of those we interviewed, all agreed that any campaign that supported independent retailers could only be a good thing.

This is where our day took a turn for the serendipitous. Roaming through Bloomsbury during the lunch break we assigned ourselves, we stumbled across a small bookshop flying the Books Are My Bag bunting proudly in their front window. We had found yet another specialist bookshop called Gay’s The Word, which has been serving the needs of the LGBTQ community since 1979. What quickly became clear was that this shop does more than just provide products; it also provides a safe space and a community for those who might struggle to find one elsewhere.

The member of staff who spoke to us gave the impression that the shop has been a lifeline in the past, and that it continues to be an important source of information. He was optimistic about the positive changes in recent years, that more and more young people feel comfortable seeking the shop out, and that they can bring their parents with them. To me this shop felt relevant and alive, with a steady flow of customers and plenty of conversation and recommendations flowing between customers and booksellers. The shop also hosts readings and has a weekly Lesbian Discussion Group, as well as having an active online presence. I’ve included a link to a youtube documentary about the shop that explains why it is so important to its community of sellers, authors, and customers:

Finally, it seems to me that independent bookshops need to know who their customers are and make the experience for them something that can’t be repeated by chains or online giants. This is what each of the bookshops we visited, in different ways and with differing levels of success, have managed to achieve.

Your next must-see museum: The Plantin Moretus Museum

uczcbsv12 March 2014

Written by Meg Tobin-O’Drowsky

Ok, so the museum itself might be a bit of a trek (it being located in Antwerp), but believe me, it’s worth the trip. I recently visited the museum on a holiday that spanned four cities and what seems like hundreds of museums, but the Plantin Moretus Museum stood out miles beyond the rest.

The museum is located at Officina Plantiniana, which was both the home and the workshop of Christophe Plantin, and later the Moretus family, who inherited Officina Plantiniana from Christophe Plantin. The museum touts Plantin as the most important printer-publisher of humanism and the sciences in the second half of the 16th century and the first industrial printer in history. It houses a variety of old printing presses, including the two oldest working ones left in the world. It is a UNESCO world-heritage site not only because of the printing house and family residences, but because it holds so many company and family archives, which UNESCO’s Memory of the World considers to be an “integral part of European history.” (http://www.museumplantinmoretus.be/Museum_PlantinMoretus_EN/PlantinMoretusEN/PlantinMoretusEN-UNESCO.html)

When I walked into the first room, I was a little confused. The museum starts off in the residence’s salon, and is followed by other rooms containing original furniture. It was interesting and beautiful, but it was missing anything related to printing.

After taking in the beauty of the living spaces and bedrooms, a quick trip through the garden leads to the part of the museum that sprawls with publishing and printing paraphernalia. The museum is seemingly a massive collection of everything Plantin and the Moretuses ever touched.

Plantin ran a bookshop out of the front of the publishing house:


The bookshop / Type / Seven printing presses and workshop tables

The two oldest working printing presses in the world today

First Dutch dictionary, commissioned by Plantin in 1573 / The Gutenberg Room with the 36-line Bible (before 1461) / The first atlas, 1570

Discussing Plantin’s presence at the Frankfurt Book Fair in the 16th and 17th centuries.

As you can see, the museum is filled with type (many of it unopened and unused), libraries, books going back as far as the 1400s, printing presses, workshops, and so much more. It’s a veritable time capsule. Of course, I’m biased: being a publishing student made the Plantin Moretus Museum all the more interesting to me. But if you have any interest in the development of humanity, the dissemination of information, or the evolution of reading, writing, and printing, you will fall in love with the Plantin Moretus Museum, just as I did.

Books Are My Bag – Part 4

uczcbsv10 March 2014

Another piece from the Books Are My Bag adventure! This blog is written by Naomi Barton

To read a book is to partake of a universe unknown.
Of course, you might have heard of said universe. You might have a picture of it, based on a fancy blurb. An excited tweet. Your favourite critic’s latest jibe.

But to actually sit down with the printed word flowing in front of your eye, is to live somebody else’s mind. It is not mere verbiage on a hunk of paper, not the three hours your eyes might take to scan it. It is most certainly not the ten or so pounds (Ten whole pounds! Gasp!) that you have exchanged for it.

To read is a ritual. An act of change, no matter how inconsequential. And all rituals must have a before, an after, and an in-between.

This in-between-ness is where your local bookshop plods in happily and sets up shop.

Stop staring and just walk in already. We promise not to bite. Unless we’re on Hagrid’s curriculum.

Stop staring and just walk in already. We promise not to bite. Unless we’re on Hagrid’s curriculum.

A tiny buzzer sounds as you cross the threshold of Victoria Park Books, subtly alerting its owner to your presence. It is muted, unintrusive. The door shuts behind you, and you take in the spill of light from the backyard, battered little child-sized beanbags on the warm wood floor, and the books.

Jo Guia, owner, will peer over her computer and gently ask you if you need any help. She knows children better than most, their desire for an original familiarity. Your child might be reading Maisie, but Jo will deftly take out a volume by someone you haven’t heard of yet. You should know without a doubt that your child will love it.

“Good on you for bringing them up right,” she says, modestly. “Not enough children read anymore.” To be on the safe side, she organizes book readings for infants and toddlers too.

Mommy, you need to accept my subversive understanding of the cultural ramifications inherent in gastronomy. Of course I like Green Eggs and Ham.

The store is designed for children more than their parents, despite who’s holding the purse strings. The books are shelved in a chronological flow, with picture books low on the ground and teen fiction high above, out of the grasp of curious fingers with too-tender minds. One solitary wall in a corner houses Adult Fiction, keeping parents occupied. Harvey the dog whimpers plaintively at you if denied a pat on the head.

I cat, therefore I am.

Every single element of this place says it is about you and what you are going to read, paying silent tribute to the ritual path you have just begun to tread.

This, is the core difference between Amazon and your local bookshop.

Amazon pays homage to the clean, jingling Cash Machine In The Sky, and good devout priests they are too. Books are their currency—as against Victoria Park Bookstore, saying loud and proud, that Books are My Bag. Books are you and me and the entire world bound by the genius of one mind reaching out to the fertile grounds of another, and books can be our everything.
But sometimes, everything isn’t enough.

The Wardrobe only took us to Narnia.

It’s not enough to close your eyes and clap your hands anymore.

Join the Books Are My Bag Campaign, and go buy something from your local bookstore. It’s worth the price.

Books Are My Bag – Part 3

uczcbsv2 March 2014

After a busy week at UCL it is Sunday already, which means it is time for another Books Are My Bag blog! This week’s Books Are My Bag blog is written by Britt van Klaveren.

Last Friday all of the MA Publishing students at UCL participated in the Books Are My Bag campaign, a national campaign trying to raise awareness for the decline in bookshops and motivating people to support their local bookshops. We were sent to several bookshops, to have a look around and interview the customers present. Did they prefer physical books over digital books? Did they prefer to purchase books in a bookshop or online? How would they feel if bookshops would disappear? Three of us went to Newham Bookshop in East London and started interviewing customers after we had met the owner, a lady who was clearly very passionate about her trade. Initially, I found that a lot of the customers had the same problem I often have. They would answer my questions determinedly: “I prefer physical books, I hardly shop online in order to keep bookshops alive, and I would be very upset if bookshops were to disappear”, but if I asked why, they could not easily articulate an answer.

However, even though they could not articulate their feelings, it did show in other ways. For instance, all the customers that came in were local and had lots of stories to tell about the shop. They had been coming here for years and years. All customers liked to have a stroll around, not necessarily looking for a specific book, but just to see if there was anything in store that they liked. And almost all of the customers had a chat with the owner, whom they all seemed to know. Just being there for a few hours showed the strength of the local community bookshop and the emotional attachment these customers had with their bookshop. When I asked one of the bookshop employee’s about her customers, she replied that they were very loyal to them and would come here from generation to generation. She pointed at a little blue chair in the play material’s, and told me that one week earlier a woman had come in with her daughter and her granddaughter. The daughter used to visit the bookshop when she was little, until she moved away. When she walked into the shop, she saw the little blue chair and immediately started to cry. The bookshop had carried along so many good memories and now, coming in with her own daughter and seeing the chair she used to sit and read on, they all came back to her.

This anecdote genuinely touched me and I believe it really reached the core of the Books Are My Bag Campaign. As the campaign states, they are an awareness campaign, not a sales promotion: the aim is to bring across that people really do enjoy books more in a bookshop and engage with books more in bookshops than they do in online shops. In my opinion, anyone who tries to argue this point should simply be sent to Newham Bookshop – because that is exactly what they will experience there.

Written by Britt van Klaveren