Paper selection

A while back we spent some time in the Proboscis studio playing around with different papers for eBooks. Not many people have seen these experiments so I thought I’d start my investigation into eBooks-as-objects by writing about them. For all of the books here I find that the combination of paper, content and illustration gives them more depth and makes them more engaging than if they were printed onto standard white A4 paper.

For the diffusion notebook we tried out a brown paper cover with translucent inside pages. Because of the way the eBooks are put together (see here if you’ve never done it yourself..) the brown paper also appears on two inside pages. For me, the brown paper gives a rough, temporary feel to the notebook and the semi-transparency of the blank internal pages hints at half-imagined sketches glimpsed through the pages.

diffusion notebook: A brown paper cover and translucent internal pages

Next up is the eBook of Dusk, a short story by Saki created by Carmen who used a combination of blue-grey and cream matt paper, slightly heavier than standard printer paper, for the cover and inside pages. The paper has been printed on twice. First, Carmen printed the blank sheets of A4 with the silhouette illustrations she’d selected, then the paper was put back through the printer for the eBook PDF. And so the text appears over the illustrations. Lovely, hey?

Dusk, by Saki: Double-printed paper lets the story appear over the illustrations

If you’re thinking of trying out this double-printing technique, my advise is to work out exactly how each eBook page is oriented and to understand the sequence in which they are laid out on the A4 sheets as this is not intuitive. And I recommend testing it out with cheap printer paper first if you’re going to be using more unusual or expensive papers.

Finally, my favourite of these early eBook experiments is A Manifesto for Black Urbanism by Paul Goodwin. This was also made by Carmen usign thin black card for the cover and translucent paper for the inside pages. Like Dusk, the translucent sheets were double printed and show black and white images of urban industrial environments behind the text.

On the cover and two internal pages the black card is printed with black ink. Because the ink is shiny and the card is matt the text is still legible though maybe not as easy to read as black text on white paper. While this wouldn’t be suitable if you’re trying to make the eBook accessible to as wide an audience as possible in the right circumstances perhaps asking a little more of the reader is a way to engage them more deeply with the content?

A Manifesto for Black Urbanism by Paul Goodwin: Black ink on black card and double-printed translucent pages

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