fbpx business author academytaxi farebusiness author academy
Book Design MS Word vs InDesign

Book Design Knockdown: MS Word vs Adobe InDesign

Lately, a few talented writers have contacted me with their pre-press production problems. Now, most new authors want to typeset their non-fiction book in Word, but Word is designed for word processing and not so much for book design. However, some authors want to be able to access the file again — and if they are not worried about the colours (inside) not being controlled, then there are workarounds. But Adobe InDesign is the industry standard for book design, so let’s discuss MS Word vs Adobe Indesign.

Remember, the interior of any book is completely separate to the cover. To dispel another myth, you can print bleed images right to the edge of your file (when setting up for IngramSpark or CreateSpace) and no, you don’t need to have a border. Bleed means going beyond the page (e.g. 3mm beyond). What you need to remember is:

Interiors: minimum 13 mm text margins for IngramSpark.

Covers: keep text a minimum 6 mm from each edge (apart from spine) — designers sometimes put elements too close to the edge.

Covers:  all set out in one file — with back cover, spine and front cover (and barcode provided).

Adobe InDesign Pros & Cons

The advantages of InDesign are:
  • You can see which images are in CMYK or not, whether 300 PPI (correct) or only 96 PPI. Please don’t use web resolution for print application.
  • Colours are controlled better — plus you can set the CMYK colours right in the document
  • You can get a font license through Typekit for some book typefaces, like Minion Pro, otherwise this font family costs US$200!
  • Large images are not saved in the working file but are in the final PDF
  • It has a better ability to do text/graphic frames beside other text. But don’t wrap too much!

The disadvantages of InDesign are:

  • Well, if you DIY, you have to learn the program and this takes quite some time.
  • There is no off-the-shelf option right now, so you’re up for AU $28 incl of GST per month for the foreseeable future to retain access.

PPI / DPI = Pixels per inch, meaning the number of tiny-weeny dots that print on the page and thus allow graphics to appear beautifully.

Word Pros & Cons

The advantages of Word are:
  • As authors, you can access it easily and also Track Changes is useful for editing
  • It takes less time to format, as tables or graphs are already in the file (if using)
  • It is possible to use Acrobat Pro to make a PDF-X1/X3 — however, not too sure about colours and DPI result

The cons of Word:

  • It is a devil for laying out large text boxes and graphics with text wraps.
  • No masters, so you need to put sections in for page numbering or the headers/footers. Making a running header different every section can drive one quite mad. It keeps editing the prior one, unless you unlink each first (icon: previous header/footer)
  • You will need Acrobat Pro & Distiller for doing the PDF, if for IngramSpark. This costs about AU $22 a month.

Further Considerations of Book Design

Another thing to consider when trying to do your own book design is the sense of space and leading.  It takes a couple of projects to get this right. You need some space at chapter starts and leading (the space between lines) needs a bit more than usual. Say your typeface is Minion Pro 12 pt, you might select 16 pt leading. Good book designers are particular!

While InDesign is the leading page layout program, if you don’t want that, a novice photo book author could use the BookWrite online technology at Blurb. I believe this helps with templated designing. (Careful with the colour quoting of trade books though, as Blurb printing can be expensive — e.g. $16 to $32 each for a 140-page colour 6″ x 9″ trade book).

pull quote - Word vs Adobe IndesignAnother thing you can do easily with InDesign is put in cute boxes, called a pull quote. In Switch the Bitch, I made these box borders have a dotted line, while the font was Bell, Italic, Bold, 11 pt (or 10 pt, anyway, it was smaller).


You must be logged in to post a comment.