Talking about color – in black and white

One of the reactions I often get, when I tell people that I am working on a book about horse color, is disbelief that the subject can be covered in a black and white book. That is also one of my fears, when thinking about marketing the book. I have tried to be very clear that the book is not – and was never intended to be – printed in color. That would not work well if the book was specifically about color identification. To show the subtle difference in tone between the legs of a red silver in winter coat, and a flaxen chestnut, you really need color pictures. In fact, you need faithful reproduction of really good color photos for that to work. Horse color is a popular topic among horsemen at the moment, but it is still a niche publication. That makes it well-suited to Print-on-Demand (POD), but color reproduction in that setting is unpredictable at best.

But perhaps more importantly, that was not the story I wished to tell with this particular set of books. It is one I’d like to tell in the future, but these books are about the history of color in the different breeds. For that reason, a lot of the photos in the books are historical. They never were in color. In most cases, that doesn’t stop them from being useful. A silver dapple Friesian is still obviously different from the present Friesian color, even in black and white. Pattern progression and pattern variation charts, which are used extensively in the book, don’t require color either. Having written about color for decades now, often for small periodicals that did not have color capability, I knew it could work. I wasn’t really concerned about the lack of color affecting my ability to communicate the ideas in the book, but I was concerned about expectations. People expect a book about color to be in color.

For that reason I looked at a number of ways to use technology to include color images. Several people suggested including a CD-ROM with color versions of the images. That was not an option if I planned to depend on the POD company for distribution. Publishing a color PDF presented the same problem. Because I intend to return to my much-neglected ceramic work when the book is truly finished, having another company handle fulfillment was non-negotiable. I wanted readers to be able to order the book, and have it in their hands, while I sat in my studio cleaning greenware. That is where the quandary of what to do about those that really wanted color sat, at least until recently.

I didn’t have an answer for that problem, but I decided last summer that there would definitely be an e-book version. While I am at heart a paper book person, having a Kindle has made me a believer in those, too. Soon after I began typesetting the paper book, I began working on a second format so that the information in the print book (most notably the charts and illustrations) worked equally well in the electronic version. As I mentioned in this previous post (Adventures in Self-Publishing), in many ways that has proven easier than the traditional paper version.

And that brings me back to the picture at the top of this post. As I had speculated back then, a color Kindle is now a reality. Behind the paper copy proof are my original Kindle, with its black and white e-ink, and the Kindle Fire that I recently received for my birthday. The release of the Kindle Fire suddenly made a color edition not only possible, but downright easy. But perhaps even better, there is now a Kindle application for both the PC and the Mac. That’s the image on my Macintosh screen behind the two Kindles. Now you don’t even have to have a Kindle to read an e-book in that format. You can just download the free application (PC/Mac). Like the actual Kindle, and unlike a PDF file, it has the adjustable text. Here is the same page with different background settings – white, black or sepia.

The size of the text is adjustable, as is the line spacing. There are also options that aren’t found on the Fire itself. You can set the book into two columns, for instance. You can also stretch the image area to be as wide or as narrow as you like, and the text follows just like it would for a website.

It might not be a full-color book, but it appears to be a good solution until color printing becomes more reliable. So while the kinks get worked out with printing the paper book, I am working on formatting the electronic version. The only question now is which will be completed first!

(The lovely images of the buckskin Shire mare, Jolie, come from photographer Jeffrey Anderson. I was very tickled to get permission to include those and several more of her in the book.)

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5 Responses to Talking about color – in black and white

  1. Rebecca Turner January 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    I can’t wait I think ll be getting one of the kindle versions.. I do have a kindle but I think Id like to see it in color on my mac instead.. cool your dong that I’m jealous you got a fire for your b-day! I want one too! lol I didn’t know they where the same size as a kindle though..I had though they were a bit larger.. huh..

  2. Threnody January 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    Very excited about this! I really want to get the Kindle application for my computer to see the color images.

  3. Pauline H January 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    I just downloaded the pc version, so now it’s just the book missing! I can’t wait to see how it turns out, and I’m looking forward to lots of hours of interesting reading. And photos in color is definitely a big plus!

  4. Lisa Shepard January 14, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Wow! Been thinking about getting Kindle Fire, and if you put it on Kindle, that is the best reason to go buy one! I KNOW that either way the book comes out, it’ll be well worth it……YAYAYAYAY!!!

  5. Christine Sutcliffe January 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    First things first I have to say I approve greatly of your choice of cover stars! XD
    As much as I love my iPhone and other such devices I really don’t like Kindles. I don’t know what it is about them but I just can’t like them so it’d have to be the good old fashioned book, book for me! :D