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Right-to-Left Reading

If you thought publishing in English could make you crazy, try right-to-left script books!

Hebrew and Japanese are among the languages written from right to left. They are also read from back to front, from the perspective of anyone used to Euro-American languages and print styles. Not only are special word-processing software and fonts needed for these languages, but the first page of the text must be at the end of the document; in other words, all the pages are reversed. (Fortunately, there is PDF software that allows one to move the pages around, even to fully reverse the order. I don’t recommend trying it in Word or its equivalents.)

The cover images must also be reversed: Instead of the front cover being placed on the right, it must be set to the far left of the full-cover image. Because of that, some publisher software does not recognize the front cover but posts the back cover on its bookstore site. One can hope the companies’ techies will correct that problem, either through automation or by manually substituting a front-cover JPEG for the auto-generated bookstore image. (They may need prodding from book buyers.)

In this day and age of global communication and online stores, right-to-left books are likely to become much more common than in the past. Will companies and technology keep up?