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Book Cover: The Dangling “A”

March 27th, 2010

A number of people have been made upset by the cover of Poorly Made in China. You would think that their problem has been with the title, but in fact it is the graphic design that has raised ire. Here are two letters published by Chemical & Engineering News, in response to a book review it printed.

I’m a Chinese grad student studying chemistry in North America, and usually C&EN is one of my favorite publications. However, the review of the book Poorly Made in China makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. The word “CHINA” with a broken A on the book’s cover and reproduced in the review is very insulting. How would you feel if you saw “USA” or “CANADA” with a broken A?  – Chao Fang (Toronto)

The review of Poorly Made in China was interesting, and the reviewer gave interesting advice on doing business in China. What troubles me is the book’s cover, which was reprinted in the magazine. It makes one question the political position of the book’s author, its publisher, and even the review’s publisher toward China and the intent behind torturing the word “CHINA.” – Yong-Kang Zhang (San Jose)

A little background: While in the middle of writing the book, my publisher sent over a cover design that was was a concept meant to convey the idea of “quality fade.” One of the letters was nearly transparent. I thought that it made the title too hard to read. I suggested they tilt the last letter instead, and I mentioned something like a position of 2 o’clock. The designers took the basic idea but made it their own. The final result was a book jacket that catches the eye and which won a design award at a book fair.

aOn the picture posted here, I caught this in a small bookshop – Freefall by Joseph Stiglitz placed on a shelf next to Poorly Made in China. I’d seen Stiglitz’s recently-published book online and didn’t think too much about its cover design. Placed side-by-side, though, the similarities are curious. If only his publisher had chosen to flip a different letter, and could they not have gone for a color other than scarlet? Anyway, I should probably thank his publisher, since they’ve given me an answer to those who want to complain about a dangling “A.”

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