Most beautiful Christmas bookshop window displays

To many people bookshops and creativity go hand in hand. Creating beautiful window displays is something booksellers in particular seem to care about and to be good at. A Christmas window is the chance to appeal to customers visually during the busiest period of the year. The best windows suggest something about what books and reading contribute to the meaning of Christmas. As buying books on the high street becomes more of a special event we can expect the importance of the seasonal window display to grow.

Here are some of my favourites from the last few years from both independent shops and chains:

Midwinter Bookscape Sculptures
These stunning paper sculptures were made by Justin Rowe and designed for display in the Cambridge University Press Bookshop window in 2012. They capture some of the fragility of physical books as well as conjuring up the literary heritage of the local landscape with evocative depictions of wintry weather.

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The Book Hive
The Book Hive is a three storey independent bookshop in Norwich. Its large glass frontage allows it to display wonderful Christmassy scenes like this one from 2010. The lack of books in this window  makes it stand out and attracts the interest of the passer by who may stop to study the design and puzzle out its message.


Tales on Moon Lane
Tales on Moon Lane is an award winning independent children’s bookshop in Dulwich, East London. This 2013 Christmas display has the same wondrous effect on its viewer as the stories it represents . The colour scheme reminiscent of sugary candy makes this window look good enough to eat!

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Carol Ann Duffy at Folyes
Rob Ryan at the Charing Cross Road branch of Folyes designed this window in 2010 for the release of Another Night Before Christmas by Carol Ann Duffy. It captures both the magic and the spookiness of the season particularly in the hush of Christmas Eve. The window is based on the book’s cover and illustrations, also by Ryan.


Waterstones, Piccadilly Circus
Although not a complete window display these large scale ‘W’s for Waterstones, Piccadilly Circus, which is the largest bookshop in Europe, are also worth mentioning. Produced by design agency Scene2 for the store this year both their simplicity and festiveness are striking. They adapt the Waterstones logo for a seasonal audience very well.



The strange tale of WHSmith, Kobo and erotica ebooks.


What happened?

A scandal erupted around the world’s second largest eBook retailer Kobo and their UK partner WHSmith this year that raised serious concerns about self-published erotica. The Mail on Sunday broke the story on the 13th October that hardcore pornographic titles were easily accessible without age verification next to children’s books on the WHSmith website. The retailer, whose brand is intended to be both mass market and family friendly, responded by shutting down its website for a number of days while it investigated how this could have happened. In the meantime both trade and self-published authors and publishers lost valuable sales. Kobo in turn decided to remove all self-published titles from its platform stating that a ‘select few authors and publishers’ had violated its self-publishing policies. This move, however, proved controversial and led to accusations of censorship and bias against self-published authors and smaller publishers from the Canadian company.


So how such titles could have ended up being offered to consumers in this way? Retailers are expected by the public to act as gatekeepers but this is more difficult with a completely digital supply chain. Erotica represents a very lucrative market in eBooks that few booksellers are willing to ignore but many seem unable to contain it properly. Self-published products available through platforms like Kobo are now so numerous that it is almost impossible for the platform provider or the retailer to keep track of them. At the same time many of these titles no longer go through editorial controls designed to weed out offensive material and automated bibliographic processes mean that search terms can come up with some very inappropriate combinations.  WHSmith’s admission that it uses Kobo’s automated feed to generate its stock list shows that retailers are not taking enough responsibility for the eBooks they allow onto their website. Kobo will not be drawn on its own processes but these too clearly need to be tightened up and this will also help them to avoid the same arguably overblown reaction in the future.

What are the consequences for eBooks?

This story has been hugely damaging to all involved in bookselling. Retailers have emerged from it looking as though they no longer have a grip on their own industry. Self-published authors too, have suffered from another largely unjustified attack on their reputation. The controversy has resurrected debates around the role of booksellers to decide what is acceptable to the public and it does not help that their discretion and judgement has been so majorly called into question in this instance. The original newspaper article also highlighted issues with self-publishing on other platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook who last week were reportedly removing offensive titles. Waterstones has pointed out that it does not sell self-published eBooks through its website.

Kobo has since stated that it is committed to the self-publishing market and to bringing as many different voices to readers as possible. Let’s hope that this shared aim can bring the book industry together to find the right balance between protection and provocation.

How to use social media to find a publishing job


Everybody knows that competition for entry level jobs in publishing is fierce and it can be hard to stand out from a crowd of applicants.

Online networks can be a strategic advantage in your job search when they are used to find out who publishers  want to hire and what type of skills they are missing. They are also essential in marketing yourself and what you have to offer employers by generating, adapting and sharing content.

Luckily, managing content is what publishers and media people do best and there is a wealth of advice out there. Here is my round up of the best blogs on how to use social media to build the platform and connections that will help you get a job.
This is the best, most all round guide to publishing job seeking on Twitter available on the web. In it Suzanne Collier tells you when and what to tweet; offers advice on who to follow and what lists to get involved with and how to set up your account to optimise your job search. She even offers her help on Twitter for those actively looking for publishing jobs.
In this blog Kate Blackham satirises the worst mistakes publishing job seekers can make from not being involved on social media to not getting any relevant experience. She also mentions the importance of being focussed in all your interactions with employers on why you want to work in publishing – and not just because you love books – and tailoring your content with impeccable grammar and spelling.
This article is more general but definitely of use to potential publishers. Forbes rounds up the best advice from the Direct Employers conference on what they look for from job applications on social media. It features the usual tips such as making sure all your profiles are clean and present you in your best light and using hash tags on Twitter to find the latest jobs. It also takes a look at how you can use interesting and relevant content to gain a following on social media that can help you to build useful connections.
We all know that publishing entry level roles are now graduate jobs but most students don’t start to think about a publishing career until fairly late in their degrees. They may miss out on opportunities to build up their skills and online presence and get ahead of the competition before they graduate. The Telegraph takes you through creating an excellent social media persona from a professional linked in page to leveraging the social power of the site’s groups. The statistic cited that 90% of recruiters are using social media to filter potential candidates emphasises how important it is to be active on these sites.

Honourable mentions:
These articles give evidence as to how social media profiles that show you in an unfavourable light can put off employers as well as the best ways to get hired such as getting personal referrals. They also give tips on networking and engaging online and setting up an online CV or portfolio.

Take Action:
Be active on all the major social media platforms
Present yourself in a professional and positive light (not badmouthing previous employers!)
Generate content that is of value to your community to get the attention of employers
Join in the conversations happening around developments in publishing

A (very) brief introduction to InDesign: Part 3

Welcome to my Introduction to InDesign series where I share what I’m learning about the programme every week. Check below for the previous two posts and to leave your comments. This week I will look at working with objects and primarily text and graphics frames.

The most important parts of any layout in InDesign are likely to be the text and graphics. These sit on the page within frames which are known as Objects. Objects make text and graphics easier to manipulate and customise.

The first thing you will need to do when placing text on a page is to work out how many columns you will need. You may find it helpful to use a pen and paper to jot down your design at this stage and work out where you intend your text and graphics to go.
To create columns go to File > New Documents and select the number of columns you desire as well as the width of the margins. The Gutter controls the space between the columns. You can save time by creating commonly used templates and saving them using File> Document Presets> Define.

You can use Document Presets to set up templates with a predefined number of columns.
You can use Document Presets to set up templates with a predefined number of columns.

Text and Graphics Frames
A Text Frame is what you will need to place your text on the page. To create one select the Type tool (T) in the Tools Panel, click where you would like the frame to appear on the page and drag.
Graphics also need their own frames which you can create by selecting the Rectangle Tool from the Tools Menu and using click and drag.

To customise Text and Graphics Frames you will need to select them by holding down Shift + Ctrl (Windows) or Shit + Command (OS) and then clicking on the object. You can then edit or delete the object.

To resize a Text Frame use the Type Tool to drag the edge of the frame. This where your Guides come in handy as you will find it will automatically snap to the nearest column edge or Guide making alignment much easier. To resize the text within the frame at the same time select the frame and double click the Scale Tool or hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (OS). To keep the text in proportion also hold down the shift key while you drag.

To reshape click within the Text Frame so that four small square anchor icons appear and select and drag. Be careful only to select this anchor or the other edges of the frame will move too. To finish press the V key to switch back to the Selection Tool and deselect all objects.

You can also create multiple columns within your text frame by going to Object > Text Frame Options and selecting how many columns you would like and the width of your Gutter.

Placing Text
To place text within your Text Frame go to File > Place and select the relevant Word document. The pointer will change to a Loaded Text Icon. Position this icon in the upper left hand corner of the Text Frame and click.

A red plus sign appearing at the lower right hand corner indicates that you have overset text. To solve this you can enlarge the frame, create another Text Frame within the column or place the text in a frame in the next column.

The red plus sign indicates overset text. Click on it to get the Loaded Text Icon to move the remaining text somewhere else.
The red plus sign indicates overset text. Click on it to get the Loaded Text Icon to move the remaining text somewhere else.

Placing Graphics
To place graphics within a Graphics Frame go to File > Place and select the relevant graphic from your files. The Loaded Graphics Icon will appear along with a preview of the graphic. Position this Icon within the Graphics Frame and click. If you do not already have a Graphics Frame at that location InDesign will generate one for you.

Resizing a Graphics Frame will also crop the graphic. If you would like to move a graphic within the frame use the Selection Tool and position the cursor over the graphic. The Content Grabber will appear which allows you to position the graphic as you please.

The Content Grabber looks a bit like a donut and allows you to move a graphic around the frame.
The Content Grabber looks a bit like a donut and allows you to move a graphic around the frame.

To rotate a graphic within a frame select it using the Selection Tool and in the control panel make sure the centre point is selected on the Reference Point Locator. Then chose the number of degrees you would like your graphic to rotate.

A (very) brief introduction to InDesign: Part 2

Last week I began a series on the basics on InDesign. I’m hoping that with these posts I can help people to want to get to grips with the programme to learn with me. I began with some tips on how to set up your workspace and load a document to your specifications. Then I went on to look at Master Pages which are the building blocks of your layout and save you time and effort by enabling you to apply the same design to multiple pages.

This next instalment will focus on in more detail on page layouts and page numbering which are crucial to attractive and coherent book design. It will also look at another way of viewing and presenting your designs and the printing terms bleeds and slugs.

Creating a Layout on a Master Page
Text and Graphics frames are in the first instance added to the Master Page as they then appear throughout the document. These may be called Placeholder Frames as they identify the areas where text and images will appear. They also allow the designer to see his/her layout at a glance and to flow text easily through the document.
To add these Frames to your Master Page select the page in the Pages panel and use the Type tool to add a Text Frame and the Rectangle Frame tool from the Tools panel to add a Graphics Frame.

Adding a placeholder text box using the Type tool.
Adding a placeholder text box using the Type tool.

Rulers and Guides
Guides are lines that can be applied to your layout and help you to place objects precisely. They can be dragged down or across the page from the horizontal or vertical Rulers (to apply a guide to a whole spread press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) while dragging) or added straight to the page using the Layout > Create Guides option. They are used to check that objects such as text or image frames are properly aligned.
In the Create Guides dialogue box select Fit Guides to Margins or adjust the Rows and Column boxes.
To change a horizontal guide to a vertical one or vice versa press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS).
When you are positioning an object such as a header or footer it will automatically snap to the guide you have created e.g. a margin, or column edge.

create guides
The Create Guides dialogue box allows you to apply Guides to your layout.

Page Numbering
To add page numbers to your document you must first add them to the Master Page by selecting the Type tool in the Tools panel. Click on the bottom left or right hand corner of the page using guides aligned to the margins and your column edges to place a text frame.

Choose Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number. The letter A will appear in the Text Frame. On the document pages based on the Master Page this will change to a 1, 2, 3 … etc.

To add different page numbers to a specific section e.g. an introduction to a book may be numbered using Roman Numerals click on the relevant pages in the Pages panel and choose the Numbering and Sections Option.

Select both Start Section and Start Page Numbering and make sure the value in Start Page At is 1. Then select your preferred style from the Style option, in this instance Roman Numerals.

The Numbering and Sections option is used to add sections with different numbering systems.
The Numbering and Sections option is used to add sections with different numbering systems.

Presentation Mode
Viewing your document in Presentation Mode means that the InDesign interface is hidden and that it takes up the whole screen. It is useful for showing your designs to others.
Go to View  > Screen Mode > Presentation.

Presentation bleeds and slugs
View > Screen Mode lets you see your document in Presentation Mode as well as Bleeds and Slugs
A typical InDesign document viewed in Presentation Mode.
A typical InDesign document viewed in Presentation Mode.

Bleeds and Slugs
In the Screen Mode Menu there are also options to view your document with Bleeds and Slugs
Bleeds and Slugs are printing terms used within desktop publishing to refer to areas of the printed document or workspace. They can be printed or published depending on whether they are needed.

Bleeds refer to objects that go over page boundaries purposely usually because a designer may want colour to extend right to the edge of the page and this is best way to ensure that this is retained during the printing process.
They can also however be unintentional and a result of printing errors or a miscalculation of the page size and in this respect they are useful for correcting mistakes before costly printing takes place.

A slug is a component of the publishing process that is located on the outside of the document or margin usually on a trim line. It contains information such as date of printing, version number, titles, names and comments and is used by printers and publishers to keep track of the process.

To be continued …

A (very) brief introduction to InDesign: Part 1

Adobe InDesign CS6 has become the industry standard programme for desktop publishing. The majority of people working in publishing will come across it during their careers, and people working in editorial or design and production will most likely become very familiar with it. It may be used to produce layouts in publishing houses that are then sent to printers or converted into ebooks or by editors who are working on text corrections or proofreading.

Many people who don’t have a design background however, can get very nervous about working with InDesign. This is why I am going to be working on a blog series on the basics of the programme showing you how to create simple document layouts; how to place text and work with images

InDesign is fairly intuitive and easy to pick up and I hope these brief introductions are helpful to those in publishing who want to improve their design knowledge – or at least have some sense of what the production department is talking about!

To practice these steps you will need to download a 30 day trial of the software from:

There are also many useful websites to gain much more information listed below:
Adobe Community:
Adobe InDesign Help and Support:
Adobe TV:
Adobe Design Centre
Creative Bloq:

The Workspace

A typical InDesign workspace looks like this
A typical InDesign workspace looks like this

The first screen that you will come to when you open up a blank InDesign document is your workspace. The workspace has the following features:
• Menu Bar
• Application Bar
• Control Panel
• Tools Panel
• Pasteboard and pages

It will also have selection tools in the left hand corner such as the Type Tool for inserting text into frames and the Rectangle Frame Tool which is used for creating image frames. To move around inside your workspace use the Hand Tool and to selection items the Selection Tool. To move between pages double click on the relevant page icon within the Pages Panel.
InDesign has a selection of pre-set workspaces for different purposes e.g. Typography, Digital Publishing, Printing and Proofing. If you want to save your own customised workspace for future use just go to Window > Workspace > New Workspace and in the dialogue box enter the name e.g. magazine1 and if necessary tick Panel Locations and Menu Customization.

Document Settings

New Document Settings dialogue box
New Document Settings dialogue box

To open a new document in InDesign go to File > New Document and click OK.
With InDesign you can set up a document to:
• have a certain number of pages
• have pages of different sizes a set number of columns
• specified margins
and so on.
To do this go to File > Document Presets and in the dialogue box enter your chosen values.

From now on you will only have to select these premade settings for every similar document you wish to make.

When you enter values for your Margins be careful to select or deselect the Make All Settings the Same icon in the centre of these settings depending on whether you want your inside, outside, bottom and top margins to be the same.

When testing your document to see if it is ready to be outputted e.g. the colour settings are appropriate for its purpose, you can double click the Preflight button in the bottom left hand corner of the document window.

This button will display as a red warning sign while you work so that you can rectify any errors as they happen. To get more information about an error double click on it. Typical problems include overset text which will be discussed later on.

The Preflight view detects errors to be fixed before outputting.
The Preflight view detects errors to be fixed before outputting

To rearrange pages in the Page panel select them by double clicking and push them upwards or down depending on your design. Note that different layouts may then be applied depending on the relationship between the previous page and its Master page (more on that later). To delete pages select them and then the trash icon at the bottom of the panel.

To switch between two or more open documents in your workspace go to Window and a list of currently open documents will be displayed. Select the one you would like to bring to the front.

Master Pages

A typical Pages panel view with an A-Master page
A typical Pages panel view with an A-Master page

When you are working on a typical InDesign document you may have many pages but the same basic layout on each which helps to keep the design coherent. Master pages save you time by allowing you to apply one layout onto many Document pages in your Pages panel. To do this click and drag your Master page icon across the Document pages or choose Apply Master from the Panel Menu and click OK.

Your document may eventually contain many Master pages so to avoid confusion rename them by going to Window > Pages and confirm that the Masters page in question is still open. Then type in a name e.g. four column layout and click OK.

To override a Master page item on a Document page press Shift + Ctrl (Windows) or Shift + Command (Mac OS) and click on the object to select it. You can now delete or manipulate the object as you wish.

To be continued …

What are the benefits of being platform agnostic?

When publishers have worked out that they want to make a digital product the next big question they face is which platform do they produce it for? There are a confusing array of formats and devices on the market but publishers must try to develop something that is going to sell and preferably not cost too much money upfront. Part of whether a project like this sells is down to the quality of the content and the presence of a market but much is also due to the responsiveness of the design to the consumer’s needs and the way it is marketed. Publishers have to make a decision on these principles about whether to produce something in a specific format and for such a market as the Amazon Mobipocket, or to go for a file that will work across many devices such as the Epub format which is supported by Nook and Kobo among others. Platforms and devices are not the same thing of course, with Amazon’s Kindle platform available as an iOS app for example, but for various revenue related reasons such as the cut they take from publishers, to many in digital publishing they are effectively interchangeable.

The most obvious benefit of using a platform that has already been established to produce your eBook or app is the relative ease of development and the cost savings that come with it. For instance you already know the parameters both technically and aesthetically of your product and you may only have to make one or two versions overall to cover the entire market. Most platforms also have their own clearly defined and sometimes large markets that allow publishers to capitalise on the goodwill and consumer loyalty that has built up around major brands. Often publishers face difficulty in getting their digital products to market, but this is not generally a problem for those using platforms linked to large retailers who often manage the whole supply chain extremely well on their behalf. This means that publishers are free to fulfil their roles as content developers and curators without having to worry too much about retail logistics such as customer and technical support. Platforms with a critical mass of take up can also be helpful in the fight against piracy.

So with all these benefits available why do publishers bother to make their own bespoke engines to run their products or use more open formats such as EPub? Their main motivation is money, as major retailers typically quantify the advantages of selling through their stores. The cost to use a retailer/platform provider’s software is therefore as high as the market will allow, and the near monopoly enjoyed by some retailers over Ebooks for example, means that they can be punitive. Technology companies will take a cut from every product sold on their devices and using their operating systems, whether this is a percentage like in the Apple App store or 50-70% discount from the publishers for EBooks sold on Amazon. It also means that consumers may pay more for hardware and software because of higher mark ups and this makes the industry anti-competitive.

If publishers do decide to go it alone or get in help from outside agencies to make their products unique they have more freedom over elements of design and functionality, and can tailor the format to suits the individual needs of their content and customer. It is easier then to establish their own niche and garner a reputation for quality in a particular field. This way, publishers can also deal with more retailers and their future business is not tied to an external company’s fortunes. Although they may have to pay software developers more in the initial stages of development, publishers using bespoke or open platforms have more control over pricing and can deal directly with their own market, meaning that they have access to the sales data and market research that will drive future acquisitions. Usually what hampers innovative development and long research timeframes is the need for revenue balanced against the potential cost of abandoning an available market. No one approach works for every type of digital project and more commercial products may work better with a mainstream format.

What publishers cannot afford to do is simply to try to recreate the print experience on screen. A digital product has to prove its own need to exist, the HTML5 based Epub3 standard for example provides exciting opportunities for publishers using multimedia content, and to do this we need to keep as many platforms viable as possible.

Nosy Crow sell their book apps through the Apple app store
Nosy Crow sell their book apps through the Apple app store


Mind Candy have worked closely with Penguin Children's to develop the Moshi Monster brand using the Unity3d gaming engine.
Mind Candy have worked closely with Penguin Children’s to develop the Moshi Monster brand using the Unity3d gaming engine.
Moshi Monsters in game footage


Random House have developed their own narrative gaming experience: Black Crown working with Failbetter Games.
Random House have developed their own narrative gaming experience: Black Crown working with Failbetter Games.