Interior Book Design
A collection of notes and resources on interior book design that may prove useful when designing page layouts.
Herein is a description of common interior book page layout guidelines. Blending geometry—such as the rule of thirds or the golden ratio—with intuition can create aesthetically pleasing experiences for readers.
Books on book design include:
- On Book Design, Richard Hendel
- The Design of Books, Adrian Wilson
- Designing Books, Jost Hochuli
- Thinking with Type, Ellen Lupton
- The Elements of Typographic Style, Robert Bringhurst
Many free reference materials are available on the topic of book design using TeX derivatives, including:
- The Typesetting Area, Willi Egger
- Canonic Layout, Claudio Beccari
- Octavo, Stefan Revets
- Canons of Page Construction, Yiannis Lazarides
- A History of Graphic Design, Guity Novin
Also, Reese Patton’s Formatting for Print has a mathematical method for calculating margins based on font size and other parameters.
Subsequent subsections are notes that may help when building configurable templates for the interior book page design of various book genres. If you have suggestions for improvement or book layout designs to contribute, let me know.
A book’s trim size defines its physical dimensions, which influences cost per page as well as margin and gutter sizes.
- Trim. A small subset of common sizes, given in inches, for traditional book publishing includes:
- Mass market: 4¼ x 7
- General fiction: 5½ x 8½
- General non-fiction: 6 x 9
- Memoir: 5¼ x 8
- Digest: 5⅜ x 8⅜
- Children’s: 7½ x 7½
- Magazines: 8⅜ x 10⅞
- Manuals: 8½ x 11
- Margin. Bringhurst suggests that about 66 characters per line, counting spaces, for single-column pages is considered most legible when printed; for multi-column work, averaging 40 to 50 characters hits a sweet spot. This can be achieved by adjusting the margins, font size, and column widths.
- Gutters. To ensure that the text doesn’t get glued, the inside text margin must be adjusted independently of the outer margins.
Margin and gutter dimensions can be calculated and tweaked according to the algebraic expressions in the aforementioned TeX references. Fortunately, much of the work to create beautiful layouts has already been developed into the ConTeXt typesetting engine.
For running headers or footers, mind the following principles:
- Blank pages. Omit headers and footers on chapter pages and all blank pages.
- Running. Common pairings for left/right pages include:
|Part title||Chapter title|
|Chapter title||Chapter subtitle|
|Chapter title||Page subheading|
|Page subheading||Page subheading|
|Author name||Chapter title|
|Book title||Chapter title|
Besides the first guideline, the other items are fairly flexible when constructing chapters and scenes:
- Page. Always start the first chapter of a novel on a right-hand page. Subsequent chapters start on a new page, and some books also place new chapters on a right-hand page.
- Sink. Start about ⅓ down the page; consider adding graphics for flair.
- Lettrine. Add drop caps (lettrines) for the first letter of the first word.
- Number. Write the chapter number above the text, styled distinctly.
- Indent. Refrain from indenting the first paragraph.
- Scenes. Mark scene breaks with a blank line, optionally with a small, centered ornament.
For the prose itself, layout pages with respect to the following:
- Widows and orphans. All pages must have significant content; ensure that solitary lines of text never appear alone at the bottom or top of a page; avoid single words from ending paragraphs on a line by themselves (by adding or removing content).
- Justify. Professionally designed novels are typically fully justified.
- Lines. Vary line spacing between 1.15 and 1½. Aim for 33 to 36 lines per full page.
- Indent. For printed books, indent the first line of paragraphs by ¼ inch, but no more than ½ an inch.
- Font. Standard point size is between 10 and 12.
The beginning of a book is adorned with the following content:
- Title page. The book’s title and author set on a right-hand page.
- Copyright page. Set on the left-hand page following the title page.
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