Innovative Single Columns: Pomegranate and Psalmen

One of the highlights of my summer was attending the International Christian Retail Show in boiling hot Atlanta, where I was signing copies of my new novel, Pattern of Wounds. The books are free at these events, and therefore the lines are long. I was an autographing machine. Suddenly I looked up and found Klaus Krogh and Thomas Silkjær of 2Krogh fame. Klaus is one of those guys you feel like you've known forever after five minutes of meeting him. He and Thomas invited my wife Laurie and I to meet up once I was done with the self-promoting. Not long after, we'd run out of books to sign and it was time for some Bible-related fun!

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2Krogh is a Bible design enthsiast's dream firm. Designing Bibles is what they do, and they've been at it a long time. Over dinner, Thomas showed me a Bible app they've developed for the iPad called Bible + Pomegranate. I was blown away. There are all sorts of typographical nuances that don't translate into e-books yet. Whenever I see a Kindle commercial boasting about the 3,000-odd books the device can hold, I always think, "Oh, goody, 3,000 books set in awkwardly spaced system fonts! Yippee!" But 2Krogh is working to change all that by creating typographer-friendly text display on the iPad. And the navigation system is wild! It costs $1.99 to download Version 1.0 at the link above ... so far the only English translation is the KJV, which looks great.

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Above: A snap from the promotional material. You can see the clicky wheel
in the bottom corner that lets you scroll through books, chapters, etc.
In action, it's very cool.

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Above: Here's what the text looks like in single column mode on my iPad.
When you click on the little circle in the lower left corner,
the thumb wheel emerges. (See Below)

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Above: As you select you option, a new wheel opens. Here I've chosen NT > Matthew
and it's awaiting my choice of chapter. Once I choose, verse options appear. 

Klaus has been designing Bibles since the 1960s, and while 2Krogh is relatively new to the English-language market, I have a feeling that is going to change. Talking to Klaus is like having a living, breathing Helvetica documentary -- i.e., the man knows a lot about design. (Note to the city of Atlanta: we discussed your new street signs, and they were found wanting.) If you're a publisher looking to design innovative editions of the Bible, you should be talking to these guys. In the photo above, you can also see a snippet of the new 2Krogh-designed New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th Edition. They improved the layout, saved 300 pages, and won a couple of awards in the process.

Hugo van Woerden, managing director of Jongbloed, joined us, too. Together 2Krogh and Jongbloed are sort of a one-two punch of Bible design and production (hence, their collaborative Design and Production Bible), with 2Krogh doing the design and Jongbloed the printing. In addition to the aforementioned New Oxford Annotated Bible, the team is responsible for a number of other projects, including Cambridge's new Transetto. Jongbloed has patented the Dwarsligger® concept, which is called a FlipBack in English editions, and is introducing it into the British book market. Here's the promotional video:

Hugo left a package at my hotel including some sample FlipBacks, and since then I've been hooked. I already loved the idea after spending time with the Transetto, and now that I've seen some other books in this format, I'm entirely on board. I've been reading Melvyn Bragg's The Adventure of English -- I'm a big fan of the "In Our Time" podcast, so it's a natural for me -- and might even convince myself to read Cold Mountain. Since I just re-watched the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy television adaptation with Sir Alec Guiness, I've been thinking of reading the book (which despite being a Le Carre fan, I've never done). Lo and behold, there's a FlipBack version, which is winging its way to me as we speak. (If you're game, here's a list of titles currently available at Amazon.co.uk.)

Okay, but wait a second. This is Single Column Week at Bible Design Blog, so what does all this have to do with single column Bible settings? Well, included in that package from Hugo was the most beautiful example of the Dwarsligger® to date, the one I swooned over when I saw its picture in the Design & Production Bible. It's the Dutch-language Psalmen:

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The reason I love Psalmen so much is that it's the best of both worlds: classic typography combined with a very innovative format. The other FlipBacks look as modern on the inside as they do on the outside. They're set in modern, miniscule type. If it's not a sans-serif font, it's a tiny-little-microscopic serif font. The wonder of these FlipBacks is that they take full-size books and through a format and paper sleight-of-hand, make them ultraportable while still readable. 

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But Psalmen isn't about packing lots of words into a small space. It features a beautiful, two-color, single column layout of the psalms with plenty of white space. I would cherish a psalter set in this type no matter what the format. The fact that it can be tucked away into the pocket and still look so generously proportioned when opened is an extra benefit. 

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One of the areas where single column settings really shine is the display of poetry. In a double-column setting, the narrow columns force unintentional line breaks, chopping up the verses. Single column layouts minimize this effect, giving the lines room to breath on the page. 

Despite it's small footprint, when you open the FlipBack, instead of two tiny pages you find one larger page. As a result, the reading experience is comparable to what you would have with a full-size edition. To illustrate this, in the photo below I've placed the open Psalmen next to the corresponding page in Cambridge's Clarion KJV. Not bad, huh?

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Psalmen also illustrates the ways that color can be used creatively in layout. Instead of the words of Christ in red, here the color red is used to set off the chapter numbers, section dividers and marginalia from the text.

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2Krogh and Jongbloed have some exciting things in store for Bible publishing. It was a true privilege to spend some time with the people whose life's work overlaps so perfectly with one of my greatest passions. Next up for Single Column Week? We'll find out what happened when I sat down with Chris Wright and Bob Groser from Cambridge University Press!