There’s a nice feel to this the moment you pick it up. It’s a relatively small format with over 200 pages, so it sits comfortably in the hand and has a heft to it that gives an immediate feeling of solidity. The cover is semi-soft and the page corners are rounded, which adds to the sense of usability and quality. All that does add to the production costs, though, so the content had better be good if the value-for-money quotient is to be kept up.
All that may seem like concentrating on form over substance, but I’ve always maintained that initial impressions are important and a book that makes you feel welcome and confident before you even open it is always going to get off to a good start.
So how does it stack up when you get inside? Well, if you’re eagle-eyed, you’ll spot that it’s a compilation of material from previous works by the packager Quarto. This is not a bad thing, and they’re very good at layout and presentation, in which area they don’t let us down here. The smaller page size isn’t a disadvantage and that soft cover means you can get the book open without breaking down the spine.
As you’d expect from the series title, the help topics are arranged as a series of questions, “How can I…?” Each one takes up no more than a spread, sometimes less than a page and there are lots of illustrations which have a generous rather than a cramped feel. If I have a gripe, it’s that the paper used tends to knock the colours back so that there’s a feeling of flatness rather than vibrancy. Why do publishers do that? They have people who are paid to handle production and it really is a sine qua non that you use the appropriate stock for the project.
There are lots of hints and tips books and there’s nothing specific to mark this out from the crowd. However, everything has a slightly different emphasis and this is nicely done. If you haven’t already got a shelf full of similar works, this is a very good place to start.