Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pet Peeve: Page Numbering

Where should a book begin? I don’t mean the story. I mean the book. One of my pet peeves is that so many books are numbered incorrectly. Pick up a book and look at chapter one. What page is it on? Zondervan begins Frank Peretti’s The Oath on page 3. They begin Terry Blackstock’s Line of Duty on page 11. Kregel begins Miralee Ferrel’s The Other Daughter on page 9 and Maureen Lang’s Pieces of Silver on page 7. Oddly enough, some publishers get it right on one book but not on another. It’s like that don’t care. I will say, however, that some publishers do seem to get it right, allowing for the occasional mistake. I randomly looked at some of the books published by Thomas Nelson and they each began Chapter One on the proper page. Which page is that? Page one, of course.

What many publishers are doing is that they numbering from the first page in the book, rather than the first page in the story. This makes the book look sloppy because by they time we include all of the front material, the title pages, the copyright information, the author’s acknowledgement, the blurbs, etc. the first page of the story may be deep in the book, giving us a number like 11 or 13. Often, the front material bears no page numbers anyway, so it makes no sense to count them in our page numbering.

This is the way I would like to see books formatted. Begin with the title page of the book. This should have the title of the book and the author’s name. Next there should be what I think of as the legal page. It includes information about copyrights, permissions and whatnot. If you care to number these pages, they should be numbered with lowercase Roman numerals. Next should come the acknowledgements page and then the preface, still numbering with roman numerals. Then should come the story title page, with no page number. Usually, this will have the title of the book, but if the book has multiple stories, it may be different. Unless there are multiple authors, this page shouldn’t have the author’s name, but rather it should have a lot of white space so the author has a place to sign his name upon request. After that, the story begins with either Chapter One or the Prologue, so it should begin numbering from Page One at this point. After the end of the story, it should revert back to a Roman numeral page numbering.

Sloppy numbering is a sign of laziness or of overworked typesetters. Many POD books are numbered this way because the typesetters don’t have enough time to read through the text and determine where the numbering should begin. Typesetters at traditional publishers may be facing the same problem. It is easier to just dump whatever the author and editor provide into a template and spit out a product. But I long for publishers to take pride in their work and number their books properly.