h1

Cultural difference 3: titles on book spines

April 9, 2010

When I look at my bookshelves, I almost hurt my neck because I have to tilt my head this way, then that way to read the titles. Here’s why.

Most books from German publishers have the title on the book spine printed from the bottom up. It’s the same for most, but not all French and Spanish books.

On all the English books on my bookshelf, the titles are printed from the top down. It’s that way for books from the United States, the United Kingdom, and also from Scandinavia. Publishers in the US and UK are very consistent about the orientation of the title, but some German publishers aren’t.

The advantage of the American system is that when you place the book on a table with the cover up, you’ll be able to read the title on the spine.

The continental European system has advantages too: when you browse books on a bookshelf where the books are placed in alphabetical order, the title of book B will be below title A and so on. If you tilt your head to the left, you can read from top to bottom, as you would read a book. With US books, you’d tilt your head to the right and read from the bottom to the top—which is not the normal reading order.

So, these different systems can give you book-spine whiplash if you have a “mixed” bookshelf of German and English books. I hear that some Germans place their German books upside down on the bookshelf to have them fit in with the English books, but I don’t do that.

Have you ever noticed the orientation of titles on book spines? Are all the books on your bookshelf top-to-bottom titles?

When I look at my bookshelves, I almost hurt my neck because I have to tilt my head this way, then that way to read the titles. Here's why.
 
Most books from German publishers have the title on the book spine printed from the bottom up. It's the same for most, but not all French and Spanish books.
 
On all the English books on my bookshelf, the titles are printed from the top down. It's that way for books from the United States, the United Kingdom, and also from Scandinavia.
Publishers in the US and UK are very consistent about the orientation of the title, but some German publishers aren't.
 
The advantage of the American system is that when you place the book on a table with the cover up, you'll be able to read the title on the spine.
The continental European system has advantages too: when you browse books on a bookshelf where the books are placed in alphabetical order, the title of book B will be below title A and so on. If you tilt your head to the left, you can read from top to bottom, as you would read a book. With US books, you'd tilt your head to the right and read from the bottom to the top—which is not the normal reading order.
 
So, these different systems can give you book spine whiplash if you have a "mixed" bookshelf. I hear that some Germans place their German books upside down on the bookshelf to have them fit in with the English books, but I don't do that.
 
Have you ever noticed the orientation of titles on book spines? Are all the books on your bookshelf top-to-bottom titles?
Advertisements

4 comments

  1. I just checked my online book collection, and see no issue with orientation. 🙂

    All kidding aside, one thing I’m curious about is how you keep dust from building up on books in your bookshelves. I’ve been known to put books in cabinets or boxes to keep the dust away.


  2. Constant reading keeps the dust off nicely 🙂

    Okay, okay. I actually use one of these duster thingies to remove the dust. And I have a lot of books in boxes too, since I ran out of space on my bookshelves a long time ago.


  3. jeez, you guys are like a wonderful, personal key hole to life abroad…this and pizza and peanut butter are fun…thanks


  4. Mine all go the same way, and I use a ‘FlyLady’ feather duster to keep the dist off the books ;o)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: