Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

August 16th, 2011:

Sixteen Inches in Seven Books

SevenBooksSixteenInches.jpgSpace is getting tight in here again, and books are getting tossed on top of other books. It’s long past time to thin the ranks a little–both on the shelves and in the closet–and in standing in front of the computer section here it occurred to me that if I were attempting to free up shelf-inches I should probably go after the biggest spines first.

And so I did. After no more than five minutes, I freed up sixteen inches of shelf space–in seven books. None of these are essential. I have other, much newer books on HTML and GNOME, and given that I haven’t written a line of Perl in five years or more, one Perl book (out of two) is plenty. There is no longer a single instance of Windows 2000 here beyond a VM, so monster Win2K tomes are doing nothing but crowding out other, more useful things from my shelves.

Speaking of which: The top two titles date back to the mid-1990s, and illustrate the “spine wars” raging at the time among computer book publishers. If your books were all three inches thick, there would be fewer shelf-inches in the bookstores for your competitors, so we all wanted to make ours three inches thick. (Sybex was a champ at that, as you can see.) Coriolis published a few thick books, the thickest of which was Michael Abrash’s Graphics Programming Black Book, but compared to the other presses we were pikers. Huge spines tended to crack and spill pages in regular use, as we discovered after Michael’s book was out there for awhile. Page count was not always in proportion to spine width, either. Mastering HTML 4.0 was barely 1,000 pages long. The Coriolis HTML Black Book by Steve Holzner (2000) was 1,200 pages long, and only 1 5/8″ thick. That’s 200 more pages in one fewer inch. The difference was thicker, pulpier paper.

The Microsoft Press book at the bottom is a sort of circus freak and may never be equalled in the spine wars: It’s 1,800 pages long and a full 3″ thick. It’s not a bad book, but I’ve wondered here before it it was mostly a stunt.

Anyway. I’ve already culled an additional six or seven books, but I doubt I will ever have a stack equalling the one shown above. Ahh, computer book publishing in the spine-swellin’ 90s–what a ride that was!