Monday, December 1, 2014

Paper Perfect


There are so many things to consider when focusing on the readability of a textbook.  Paper is one of them.

Having had the experience of working in my dad's print shop as a kid, I learned at a young age that not all papers are alike.  Some are thick and stiff and others are thin and flexible.  Some are glossy and some are matte.  There are many different types of paper—each with its own characteristics.


One characteristic of book paper that can affect readability is the finish.

Glossy finishes are great for photographs because the bolder colors seem more saturated.  Glossy finishes also increase contrast between similar colors and thus can make a color photo seem just a bit sharper. Creating a coffee-table book of your favorite butterfly photos?  Use thick, glossy paper.

Color photos printed on matte-finish don't "pop" quite as much as on glossy paper.  But matte paper reduces glare, so a reader usually finds it easier to see details in color photos and illustrations—an important issue for learning anatomy. Reduced glare is also known to reduce reading fatigue.  Making it more likely that students will be able to read the book without getting a headache.

In Anatomy & Physiology we use a paper that doesn't have the glossy sheen found in some A&P textbooks.  We instead use a finish that maximizes readability by minimizing text-obscuring glare—thus reducing reading fatigue. Maybe the photos don't "pop" quite as boldly as they could, but readers can easily see each and every detail.

For A&P textbooks, a matte finish on a thin, opaque body (to reduce the total weight) is ideal for reading and exploring details of anatomical illustrations.

Who'd have thought that part of making a book highly readable is picking just the right paper?  It turns out that little details like that can make a big difference in learning!



Cartoon:adapted from Ra├║l Ruano Ruiz
Photo: K Patton

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