The Design of Books

An Explainer for Authors, Editors, Agents, and Other Curious Readers

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Pub Date 12 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 08 Mar 2024

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Seasoned designer Debbie Berne presents an accessible introduction to book design for authors, editors, and other book people.
Design is central to the appeal, messaging, and usefulness of books, but to most readers, it’s mysterious or even invisible. Through interiors as well as covers, designers provide structure and information that shape the meaning and experience of books. In The Design of Books, Debbie Berne shines a light on the conventions and processes of her profession, revealing both the aesthetic and market-driven decisions designers consider to make books readable and beautiful. In clear, unstuffy language, Berne reveals how books are put together, with discussions of production considerations, typography and fonts, page layouts, use of images and color, special issues for ebooks, and the very face of each book: the cover.  
The Design of Books
speaks to readers and directly to books’ creators—authors, editors, and other publishing professionals—helping them to become more informed partners in the design of their projects. Berne lays out the practical steps at each stage of the design process, providing insight into who does what when and offering advice for authors on how to be effective advocates for their ideas while also letting go and trusting their manuscripts with teams of professionals. She includes guidance as well for self-publishing authors, including where to find a designer, what to expect from that relationship, and how to art direct your own book.
Throughout, Berne teaches how understanding the whats, hows, and whys of book design heightens our appreciation of these cherished objects and helps everyone involved in the process to create more functional, desirable, and wonderful books.
Seasoned designer Debbie Berne presents an accessible introduction to book design for authors, editors, and other book people.
Design is central to the appeal, messaging, and usefulness of books...

Advance Praise

“Berne is an extremely engaging and approachable writer, and her book is valuable for the inviting, excellent, and unpretentious introduction it offers to the craft of book design. I learned a lot from The Design of Books, including some things I should have known but did not.” -- Gita Manaktala, editorial director, the MIT Press

“Finally, a book that illuminates the most mysterious warren of publishing—design. For all those seeking to understand the visual language of books, here’s your soup-to-nuts translator."-- Danielle Svetcov, agent, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary

“A fascinating insight into the hidden world of book design. Invaluable for those who want to create beautiful books.” -- Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn

“Berne is an extremely engaging and approachable writer, and her book is valuable for the inviting, excellent, and unpretentious introduction it offers to the craft of book design. I learned a lot...

Available Editions

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ISBN 9780226822952
PRICE $22.50 (USD)

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Average rating from 28 members

Featured Reviews

A brilliant book on all the design that goes into the books we own and love. Everything from size, to font, to cover, to the famous debate of Paperback vs Hardcover. Authors will especially appreciate this book, as it breaks down the process their future book is soon to follow. If you ever thought of publishing a book, going into book design, or are simply curious about the behind the scenes of book making, this one's for you!

Thank you to Netgalley and University of Chicago Press for this ARC.

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Engaging and accessible - this will please the nerdiest of bibliophiles. A recommended purchase for collections where writing craft and trade books are popular.

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The Design of Books by Debbie Berne is the kids of book best appreciated by authors, bibliophiles, and anyone who aspires to be an author. It was so interesting, and felt like getting a behind-the-scenes tour to a favorite museum. Highly recommend!!!

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An excellent explanation of how books look, the process to design them, and what goes into that process. It's helpful for any writer whether self-published or not. I learned so much from this book.

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Clear and concise, like the best book design. This book is a must-have reference for anyone who says "I love books" and means it literally -- not just for the stories they contain, but for the elegance in their enduring design.

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This book should be put into the hands of everyone working in the publishing industry. I am just a “Curious Reader” (as the subtitle puts it) so I read this purely out of personal interest and I have no ambitions to be a writer, but I can’t imagine that any writer would not benefit greatly from owning this book.

Debbie Berne goes through all the details you need to know regarding book design, from the history of typeface to the modern design process (including helpful illustrations). There is so much valuable and fascinating information in this book that I would stop reading to tell people about what I found out because I was amazed by what I didn’t know. These are the nitty gritty facts about every facet of publishing a book that I could think of. And more.

Berne’s writing is so conversational and pleasant to read that you feel you have a mentor sitting beside you showing you the ropes.

I will never look at a book the same way again! Highly recommended to bibliophiles and everyone in the publishing industry.

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As an author and bibliophile, I really enjoyed this book! I love that it's broken into sections discussing each element of how a book is designed, from the cover to considering how a book looks on the shelf vs on a website. I love better understanding what's going on "behind the scenes"! Highly recommend. Would make a great gift for the book lover in your life!

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I've always loved books and this is the ultimate book about how physical books are made. When I was a rare books cataloger, we had to keep track of the physical details of every book to account for difference, and I think catalogers should read this before getting started.
This book is still great if you just love books, though. There are detailed explanations of things like binding, font, and the history of printing, but nothing long, drawn out, or boring.
Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this

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I loved The Design of Books! I had no idea the level of depth that goes into finishing/designing a novel but it was fun to read and learn more about it. I enjoyed that this was part how-to and part educational.

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The perfect book for any book lover or for anyone who wants to know more about the process of making books. I really enjoyed reading this and learning more about how books are designed and developed.

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Like the title suggests, Debbie Berne’s THE DESIGN OF BOOKS is indeed a comprehensive guide to book design. Berne goes touches on every detail, inside and out, in a very understandable way. If you are a book nerd who wants to know the little nitty gritty details of a book’s behind the scenes, this book will absolutely entertain you. If you are in the publishing industry at all—traditional or independent—this book will absolutely help you create the book you want.

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Amazing book. I enjoyed the writing quite a bit. The style flowed well. It was a compelling book and I look forward to reading more from the author.

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This is a must-read for authors, book designers, and publishers.
Berne's advice is based on decades of experience.
Her wisdom and insight is superb.

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*Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this audiobook ARC in exchange for an honest review. Pub date: March 12, 2024

This book design guide is comprehensively helpful if you are an author or potential author, work for a publisher or are looking to get into book design. This may also be a fascinating read for those who love books and want more information about how they’re made!

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It’s a good book for someone beginning or interested in designing books. It definitely covers everything involved in the process.

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This was super interesting! I realized while reading this book that I really didn't know much about the book industry, and how a hardcover or a paperback is produced. I really loved the opportunity to learn more!

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As an avid reader and book devourer, I found "The Design of Books: An Explainer for Authors, Editors, Agents, and Other Curious Readers" by Debbie Berne to be absolutely fascinating. Throughout my academic journey in literature, I often lamented the absence of courses on the vital role of book design in shaping reader experiences and influencing sales. Berne's comprehensive exploration of the "anatomy of a book" — delving into everything from size and binding to typography — satisfied my curiosity and shed light on an industry that deserves greater recognition.

From dimensions and binding techniques to the nuances of typography, Berne leaves no stone unturned, providing a comprehensive understanding of the publishing and design process. Reading this book felt like immersing myself in a rich documentary, with each page offering valuable revelations. My copy is now adorned with countless highlights, a testament to the wealth of knowledge it imparts.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy. "The Design of Books" has forever altered my perspective on the books that grace my shelves, and I am certain it will resonate with anyone intrigued by the artistry behind the printed word.

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Thanks to Netgalley and University of Chicago Press for letting me share my honest opinions of this eBook.

Give me anything to do with books and I’m in cloud heaven; books about books are one of my many favourite reads.

Though from chapter to chapter I wasn’t always clear who this book was for, Debbie Berne explains in the postscript that there isn’t a book like this for authors and editors to show the relevance of a designer.

In seven chapters and an appendix, Debbie Berne also describes the input designers make towards the finish design of a book. Each chapter is easy to follow and shows an element in book design or the differences between eBooks and physical books. The last chapter includes the design process from a manuscript to a finished product.

With its reference feel, I would call this a fascinating read rather than an enjoyable one, but I like how I now have more appreciation of what’s involved to produce a book.

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The Design of Books offers a relaxed, casual approach to understanding how to put a book together. Debbie Berne, an expert book designer, helps authors and editors walk through the steps of a stressful task. Book designs are not for authors. I tried to design my first attempt at publishing though it has been flopped out. Book designing is a serious thing. No writer or editor can really succeed without the expertise of a designer who has the skill and patience. Burn gives evidence of other designs concerning covers, fonts, typesetting, and layout. The Design of Books includes all formats of books, such as print, ebooks, illustrated, self-published, and all genres.
This is a must-read for any author who is trying to succeed. It is true that self-published authors can become mad in the design phase and put their books out there without a designer. But it is a humiliation. Debbie Berne is a trustworthy source to reference. For an author and their editor to succeed, they need an acceptable design. She’s very kind in her approach; she offers more support than criticism.

Thank you, Net Galley and University of Chicago Press for this Advanced Reader’s Copy.

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