Stet by Ria Bacon

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Spine design

My kids wanted to watch Peter Pan after lunch today and turned out most of the cupboard trying to find the cassette. While we were putting them back I noticed that video cassette covers followed the convention of books, that is, the spine text in English and Dutch goes from top to bottom, whereas in French, Italian and Spanish the text direction is from bottom to top. This is why I separate language groups on my bookshelves so as to avoid cricking my neck when reading the spine text, swinging my head from the right to the left side. Chinese and Japanese are easier on the neck muscles, reading straight down.

The only mention of this phenomenon that I could find was inaccurate, stating that the difference in orientation was between North America and Europe. That's clearly not the case, as my kids' video collection shows. Most other hits on the subject were about technical book binding instructions. I'd be curious to know about the text direction in other languages.