The Cover Story, Part 1

Cites & Insights 10, full wraparound cover
No, this isn’t a sales pitch for Cites & Insights 10 (2010), although it is on sale for $40 for the next couple of months.

This is a post about the cover–and, for that matter, the only way you’ll see a tiny version of the entire wraparound cover without buying the book. I may do a few more posts about some of the other book covers I’ve put together for C&I Books. With one exception, all of them are photos taken by my wife (the actual librarian in the household, the talented photographer, and the smart person) on various travels, mostly cruises. So far, entirely taken with 35mm film cameras; when we start traveling again, they’ll be digital photos (and I won’t have to scan the prints at 1200dpi to get the cover shots).

The cover size and prep work

One aspect of wraparound covers in general, and those for Cites & Insights annual volumes in particular, is the sheer size of the image. For a 6×9 book, the cover image needs to be 9.25″ high and 12.25″+x wide, where x is the thickness of the spine. For an 8.5×11 book like the C&I annuals, it’s 11.25″ high and 17″+x wide–in this case, 18.196″. That’s a big photo–18.4 megapixels, where an 8×10 print (at the same 300dpi) would be 7.2 megapixels. For 6×9 books, the width-to-height ratio’s not much different than a standard print; for 8.5×11, it’s considerably different. To get there, I scan a 4×6 print at 1200dpi, then trim to size (mostly trimming vertically) and, usually, resize to the exact dimensions.

I’m no graphic artist…and I can’t really justify having a high-end graphics program to do two or three book covers a year. More to the point, no matter what program I use, learning retention is an issue when it’s being used so rarely. I’d been using a 13-year-old Corel PhotoPaint, but that’s stopped working entirely (really not too surprising!). I tried GIMP, but the learning cliff was too high for me to scale. My wife uses Corel PaintShop Pro, but that’s a one-computer license, and I see a learning retention issue. So I tried Paint.Net (free), and so far that seems to be a good fit. For this cover, I figured out a couple of technical issues that made life easier (using temporary layers). Actually, this is the first cover using Paint.Net; Corel PhotoPaint didn’t crap out until after I’d done the disContent cover.

I don’t really do much to the pictures, by choice–possibly flipping them for better arrangement, possibly doing a little touchup, but mostly adding text…and making sure it’s in the right place.

This particular cover

This photo is of Moorea, taken from the Renaissance cruise ship (R-3) we were on, March 26, 2001 (the third day of a one-week French Polynesia cruise). It was the first time we were in French Polynesia (we’ve since returned twice–it’s really no further to fly there than to fly to the Caribbean, given that we’re in California).

The R-3 is still operating, but not as the R-3. I believe it’s now the Pacific Princess. You’ll find other Renaissance R-class ships (all around 670 passengers, with distinctive features such as an expansive, 24-hour-a-day library space and four restaurants) cruising for Oceania, Pacific, and Azamara.

Therein lies a tale of sorts. We booked the cruise because we’d always wanted to see French Polynesia, the timing was right, and we got a really good price–much lower than we expected for a fairly small ship and a line with a fairly good reputation. Then, a couple months before sailing, our travel agent called and told us we were getting a substantial refund because Renaissance had lowered the prices (and this agency had price guarantees).

Once we were on board, we said “There is no way Renaissance can be making money with this”–the prices were just too low for the quality of food and service and the known costs of operating a cruise ship.

As it happens, we were right: Renaissance was losing money at a rapid clip. The line expanded way too fast (building eight R-class ships in a three year period after previously building another eight very small Renaissance-class ships), never really found its market niche (it was pricing below Princess levels and trying to offer near-luxury-class cruises), and went bankrupt in September 2001, two weeks after 9/11. It had been in trouble for some time; as with other marginal travel operators, the 9/11 situation was the final blow.

It was a great cruise. We saw a lot, French Polynesia (other than Papeete, Tahiti) is remarkably lovely and pleasant, really not much negative to say.

Note: Seeing this post in context, I see that the photo has right sidebar text superimposed on it. Click on the photo itself to see it in a separate window.

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