How Computers Make Books cover
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About this book


How do we decide where to put ink on a page to draw letters and pictures? How can computers represent all the world’s languages and writing systems? What exactly is a computer program, what and how does it calculate, and how can we build one? Can we compress information to make it easier to store and quicker to transmit? How do newspapers print photographs with gray tones using just black ink and white paper? How are paragraphs laid out automatically on a page and split across multiple pages?

We answer these questions and more, taking a meandering tour of the art and science of book production from ancient times to the modern day, looking at both the low-level technical details and the overall landscape. You won’t need any prior knowledge of publishing or computer programming to enjoy this book—just a quiet place and a curious mind.

How this book is organized: A road map

Chapter 1 introduces the book and explains who it is for and why it was written. We then start our exploration from nothing. We have a plain white page on which to place marks in ink to make letters and pictures. How do we decide where to put the ink? How can we draw a convincing straight line? Using a microscope, we will look at the effect of putting these marks on real paper using different printing techniques.

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