A cross-cultural review of books as physical objects 📗
Addressing the line-spacing question specifically - I think this is a fairly new trend, and I think it's an influence leaking through from web design. At least, when I think about reading books my parents had when I was a child, I remember a lot of them being much closer to the example you showed of French typesetting. It's only more recently that I can remember encountering that more spaced-out style. That said, my light reading is primarily via ebooks these days so maybe I'm drawing conclusions from too few examples.
I honestly don't mind it too much. I find it easier to read text with a little extra room to breathe. Not a ton, I wouldn't personally go above a line-height of 1.4 or so, but 1.2-1.3 is a nice balance IMO.
I would be surprised if it were an attempt to artificially juice some metric like page count. Anecdotally people don't care much about page count - occasionally you'll get people bragging about how they read a thousand-page book or whatever, but it isn't a major factor in my experience. And It must make the books more expensive to print, so I can't imagine that they'd do it if they didn't expect some benefit from it.
I would love to see something like this post but across other countries as well :)
Even though I don't speak Japanese well enough to read its books, there is something about Japanese graphic design which makes me aspire to read it better at some point in my life. Just going into the bookstores and flipping through books and magazines is satisfying... Obviously there is manga but there's also something special about plain non-fiction books in their density and sparseness (somewhat similar to the more classic French books). My favorite though are books with images and descriptions like Japanese math and science books... For instance, take a peek at this Japanese book on Sherlock Holmes (you can see a few pages on Amazon) 😻https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4767829771?tag=itmedia-nl-22&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1
What a nice topic! Sadly, I can only do "small difference"-stuff, as I know German vs. US best.
1. "Blurbs" (what an awful word). US-books without at least one recommending quote on cover? Nope. Erik Hoel wrote his first novel only had a real chance as he already had two blurbs. https://erikhoel.substack.com/p/secrets-of-the-publishing-industry
Even Bryan Caplan - a prof. and author of several books felt the need for a blub for his new booklet: https://betonit.substack.com/p/coming-soon-dont-be-a-feminist - and with that title only Scott Alexander of ACX-fame dared to blurb it. - A US-bestseller may have a dozen pages of blurbs by a hundred reviews of even unknown papers. What for? - A German book might have one or two on the back - if it aims for big sales, Sometimes one on the front, but that then that person must be a real celebrity. If it made it to the Spiegel-Bestseller-List it may get a small orange sticker on front. A US book will inform in big capital letters that the author has done a bestseller before. On the front cover.
2. Really serious books in Germany will have none of that. If you want to look intellectual, your one "colorful" option is: Edition Suhrkamp https://media.suhrkamp.de/mediadelivery/rendition/bf629cea461d4e6bb74b1c1705e0b642/-S0x0/Reihen_es_Moodbar_desktop.jpg
3. Books in Germany/Austria are fixed price by law. You can only offer discounts on "Mängelexemplare", i.e. "damaged books". The only "damage" is usu. a stamp on the side. The stamp says: Mängelexemplar. :D (Actually I feel hurt seeing those stamps.)
4. US/UK books seem often done on cheap, thick paper (with subpar binding), even in hardcover. Seen J. Peterson 12 rules for life? - Looks like war-time production.
5. Unrelated: Russia's "time traveller" books. All a book should not be. https://cepa.org/article/comrade-hitler-and-other-russian-fantasies/
same expert, more pics: https://twitter.com/sumlenny/status/1535582101621420032
Great article! Glad you addressed the spine title issue. There are also punctuation differences (guillemets in French vs quotes in English, and differences in double quotes in US vs single in UK). I assumed margins are for marginalia and spacing was for underlining, but perhaps this is generous and they're just to make books look longer! 😉
Also, I believe British/American books are priced based on length, whereas French books usually have a fixed price on publication, which could explain wishing to make the latter more dense. This is an issue for Anglophone debut novelists, who have a fairly strict upper word limit to ensure the book is cheap, whereas I understand no such limit exists for Francophone writers. (Established Anglo writers are allowed more leeway.)