Direction of text on book spines

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Direction of text on book spines

Postby md0 » 2016-08-27, 16:54

I was re-organising my books after moving, and once again I noticed the frustration that is inconsistent text direction.
Since I'm sorting roughly by topic, I have books in different languages next to each other.

At the moment, I can say that Greek and French books are overwhelmingly bottom-to-top. English books on the other hand are running top-to-bottom.

I don't know how much of this is learned behaviour, but the English book spines are almost impossible to read without titling my head, while I can bottom-to-top without any conscious effort. Is it different for people raised in an English written culture?

Of course, CJ(K) readers can laugh at both of us, since their scripts can be literally written at any direction, without rotating the characters (my favourite script trivia is that Japanese for some time after modernisation was written horizontally, but as RTL, because they treated horizontal writing as vertical writing that was only one line tall).

That last one makes me wonder how RTL written cultures print book spines. It would probably make sense for them to use the English way.
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Re: Direction of text on book spines

Postby vijayjohn » 2016-08-27, 17:47

I am so used to reading it in both directions, possibly because I have a shit ton of books and have spent a lot of time just looking at their spines one by one on bookshelves. I was just taking a look at my bookshelf right here in my room. All of the books in European languages other than English that I have here, and that are neither about linguistics nor intended to be used by English-speakers as learning resources or textbooks, are bottom-to-top (that includes French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, and (randomly) Slovak). So are this, this, and this book called Do You Want to Speak Czech?. :lol: (However, this German book on child language acquisition is top-to-bottom).

I also happen to have an issue of a Pakistani monthly magazine called Jasoosi Digest. The spine includes text mostly in English but also a little in Urdu, and the text in each language is facing the text in the other, so the Urdu text is written from top to bottom, but the English text is written from bottom to top.

Malayalam books appear to have changed direction over the years. They used to be bottom-to-top, but now, they're top-to-bottom.

Everything else I have in my room is top-to-bottom. That includes books not only in English, Chinese, Korean, and Malayalam, but also in Turkish, Persian, Urdu, Thai, and Vietnamese.

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