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July 7, 2009

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Why Books Are Great, In One Link

From a neat presentation by the super-smart Matt Webb. He’s talking about Bruno Munari, who in turn is talking about all the interesting ways there are of drawing a human face.

So, page one. As Webb says: “It’s great prose, makes a lot of sense. And then you’re halfway through a sentence, and you turn the page, and…”—(Click the “next” link on Webb’s page, you’ll see.)

What’s great about this? The full-bleed-ness. There is no full-bleed on the web. And that totally sucks! It’s such a crucial, powerful tool. Books and magazines get full-bleed. TVs and video game consoles get full-bleed. Even the Kindle and iPhone get full-bleed! But not the web. You don’t ever get the full screen, the entire page, the total experience. In fact—the way browsers are going—you get less and less.

What’s also great? The surprise. For some reason, hiding a reveal behind a hyperlink doesn’t pack the same punch as the page-turn. I don’t know why; I feel like it should work just as well. A super-fast, Javascript-y appearance would probably work better. But there’s something special about the turn of a page. Maybe it’s all the narrative expectation that we build into that physical experience over the course of years. Whatever it is, it’s one of the things I really loved in the Kindle version of Penumbra (and missed in the web version): Page-turns became a storytelling tool.

Posted July 7, 2009 at 11:14 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Briefly Noted


You know who takes great advantage of the page-turn? Writers of children's books. Every turn conceals a new vignette. It's partly the introduction of images: words can go on and on, but our sense of the image is that it's tied to a single presentation, on one or two pages.

Most books, fiction or nonfiction, are long scrolls. Kids' books are true codices.

And in some cases, more than codices - with embedded popouts, pages hidden under other pages, panels to touch or smell.

YES. You are absolutely right. Comic books, too; the best comics all use the page-turn to stunning effect.

Thanks for bringing some of the right vocabulary into this. I can now declare, with conviction: I am a man of the codex, not a man of the scroll.

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