Saturday, 30 August 2014


A Penguin book using the original colour system.

Marilyn went off to her usual Saturday morning car boot sale in Raynes Park this morning. When she came back she brought me two presents. First, a bar of Belgium chocolate made from coffee beans from Madagascar, which sadly, exists no longer, and secondly a copy of Claire Tomlin’s, "Jane  Austen :A life," she picked up from a second hand book stall. This edition was one of a series of books chosen to be republished in Penguins original format  to commemorate Penguin being the publisher of the year in 2007.

I already have the original Penguin paperback version of ,"Jane Austen: A life," with the pale green cover, a print of Steventon Rectory in the background and prominently to the fore, Cassandra’s sketch of Jane. I also have an e-book version on my i-pad for when I take friends to Jane sites so I can easily find quotes from Claire Tomlinson about the place we are at.This 2007 version of Tomlin’s biography of Jane is different from the 1997 edition. Penguin have used, in this commemorative edition, the cover system that they originated when Penguin was founded by Allen Lane in 1935. 

There are  many aspects of the style which are iconic. Penguin books and their distinctive covers were something I was used to when I was growing up in Southampton. Penguin published only the very best in academic writing, in novel writing, philosophy, history, poetry and writing of all types. They were also renowned for helping to develop the best new writing talent and were never afraid to promote new ideas and subjects in philosophy, science and history. One of the key concepts that Allen Lane wanted to promote was the idea that the best writing should be accessed by the whole population. Penguins were first sold in places like Woolworths and W.H. Smiths for 6d.

The style of my commemorative edition of, "Jane Austen; A Life," is simple. The cover is divided into three broad horizontal bands of colour, from top to bottom, navy blue, white and navy blue. The title and authors name are printed within the white band, in a simple black and white print , created as a modern serif type script, Gill Sans named after Eric Gill the artist. The text type is called Monotype Baskerville Roman, created by John Baskerville in 1923. Below this in the lower blue band is the iconic Penguin symbol. The colour bands were designed to denote what type of book they were.  The Claire Tomlin biography of Jane Austen is dark blue because biographys were dark blue. Green, was crime fiction, cerise, travel books, red, plays, yellow was used for that very important genre, miscellaneous, light purple were letters and essays and grey was world affairs.

The layout of a Penguin book was encapsulated in a four page book of instructions that included, indenting of paragraphs, spelling, punctuation, letter spacing and word spacing, capital letters and the use of italics and footnotes.The instructions were called, Penguin Composition Rules, and these guidelines were written by the typographer Jan Tschichold. He stayed with Penguin from 1947 to  1949 before returning to Switzerland.

The story goes that Allen Lane wanted a logo and name that would be attractive to all. A secretary at 8 Vigo Street, just off Regent Street where Allen Lane had his office,, overheard a conversation about using an animal logo. She suggested a penguin. Everybody liked the idea and Edward Young, the illustrator, was sent off to London Zoo where he spent a day sketching penguins in all sorts of poses.

Allen Lane also developed his publishing house with brands called Pelicans and King Penguins.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Reading a paperback is far superior to reading a Kindle

Readers absorb text differently when they use ebooks

Apparently research shows that because of Kindles and e books our reading experience is becoming fragmented and superficial.We remember less  information or details of plot. We are  not so deeply engaged with the text.

This also opens up a whole aspect of the publishing world, revealing perhaps more interest in making a fast buck than in the content of the literature they spew out. E-books are bought and received instantly like a can of beans off a supermarket shelf. The process of choosing  a book to read has changed because of this. Many people choose reading material because they are influenced by blogs, twitter groups and so called facebook friends, especially if they also associate and communicate with the writers on a self publishing site; for example, a Jane fan fiction site. The quality of most Jane fan fiction that is churned out is questionable but because people want to  be seen as part of the group and have become, "friends," with the writers, they are inspired to make nice comments and of course buy immediately their e-copy.

Here is a link to the article in the Daily Telegraph.

Post script.
 I have slept on the above comments. I have decided that all  you need to do is  watch somebody reading an e-book on a Kindle and then compare the occasion to  a time when you watched somebody read a paper back/hardback book.The difference  in how people engage and relate to  the two different written sources, is blatantly apparent, isn't it?   I don't think I have seen  anybody reading an e-book. Perhaps that says it all.

Post post script.
….and another thing or two.

The five star system that some blogs use to judge books by is awful. I wouldn’t judge a child’s writing on a five star system. Books are not hotels!!!!!! At least with hotels each star equates to a level of service and given expectations about the room. What does each star equate to in respect to a novel??
The publishing world has become a sort of, “wild west.” It is a lawless, or rather, quality less, state. Anything goes. At one time, somebody could only get published if they sent their script to a multitude of publishing houses and often,in the process, receive a string of rejection notes, a humbling and salutary process. An editor, if the author was lucky, would read it. A decision would be made about whether the writing was of good enough quality to be published. I am sure various other processes were gone through as well and to get published was extremely hard. You had to be good, very, very good to get published. There appears to be a two track publishing system now.The good writers get published, probably through a process similar to the old system.However, the greatest volume of what gets published nowadays has no standards, because people can unfortunately self-publish. This is not helped by sub standard and somewhat subservient reviewing. So called vanity writers foist their poor quality writing on a world, which often finds it difficult to distinguish the good from the bad.  I have got nothing against anybody wanting to write novels, poetry, songs, plays whatever they feel like and are inspired to do so. It would however be wise to do as Jane Austen did when she began writing, just tell your family.In her case she was a genius and by a circuitous route came to the notice of the world.