Judging a book by its…


During my break, I had a very hard time getting back into a normal sleeping pattern. I wouldn’t have cared really, but I thought it would help with returning to a normal work schedule. During my restless nights, I tried to accomplish reading two books, Thinking With Type by Ellen Upton and CSS in 24 Hours by Kynn Bartlett. Both are interesting and help-full, but when it came to grabbing one over the other, there was a preference.

Now, I don’t have a particular interest in type and I tend to struggle with it, so I figured a little reading on it would help me out. I don’t think CSS is the most interesting thing in the world either, but I know I will need it later. However, I was consistently drawn to the type book – take a look at the picture, can you blame me?

Both covers are very simple, and both consist of topics that are have structural and aesthetic elements. However, the similarities end there. Plain and simply stated, why do computer books have to be so ugly? I know the CSS is a book that will be obsolete in a short period of time, but I don’t think that’s any excuse.

They’re right, after all, about the obsolete thing…when I am finished with this, it will go in the pile of ugly Adobe in a Classroom books in my closet. It won’t resurface 10 years from now like my old high school literature books, to serve as a nostalgic icon of 2007. Maybe I’ll never finish Thinking of Type, but I’ll keep it around, maybe even leave it out in public view for others to thumb through. Books with such beauty an simplicity deserve this honor, even if I later detest type. The finish of the paper, the thoughtful layout and informative bits of visual information make this a book that gives me a sense of satisfaction in my hands. Both books were around the same price, yet I feel I have a long lasting piece of art in one book, and a temporary manual to computer-geekdom in the other. They both do their job and are successful in achieving their goal, just one does it with interest and aesthetic appeal.

Sometimes you have to judge a book by its cover. I’m in design school, after all, and i have standards for my shelf space.



Filed under design

5 responses to “Judging a book by its…

  1. I agree thinking with type is a better ‘read’… (like you can really read it)

    but CSS in 24 hours and books like it are more like what you have to just sit down, with the book and computer open and start tinkering. It’s a book to help explain all the details of how to make a web page.

    One side note is I liked how in thinking with type they draw the parallel between letter press and XHTML. I could write more on this.

  2. kynnbwbr

    Sadly, “series” books sell better than non-series books, and so the publishers have an incentive to go with a “standard look,” even if that look sucks and they’re just randomly yanking screenshots out of the interior.

    The CSS in 24 Hours cover fails as a piece of visual design, but wins as a piece of marketing. It automatically sells MORE because of the red and white, and standardized fonts and layout.

    One thing I’ll add (since I didn’t design either and got almost no say in them) is that at least the current cover wasn’t as bad as the first edition of CSS in 24 Hours, which had, no kidding, an element which I dubbed “the waterfall of BLOOD.”

    Glad you found the book helpful in some way, despite the cover!


  3. andrearf

    Wow, I never knew anyone would actually read this! I feel honoured to have a celebrity of sorts post here! And I wasn’t that nice 😦 Oh well, Kynn’s book is very useful and I highly recommend it, despite my snooty cover judgment

  4. People google for their names all the time 🙂 Glad you liked the book – it needs more positive reviews over on Amazon (hint, hint!).

    –Liz (mentioned on the ugly cover)

  5. Eh, I’m not celebrity. You shoulda seen MY response when Wil Wheaton posted something on my old blog!

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