...A story of our search for the right paper
When Cai Lun invented the paper making technique, paper became an important catalyst in the development of human civilisation.
To Basic Chinese 500, which is “the Most Important Book to Start Your Literary Life”, paper is an important element in its design process. While important, this has a little known story: the paper used in the books has undergone three major evolutions since its first edition in 2006.
[English version follows Chinese]
How we choose the paper for Basic Chinese 500
Sagebooks adopts a child-centred policy. We follow three basic principles when we decide on which paper we use for our books.
I. The luminosity of the paper
In printing books, there are two main types of paper: art paper and book paper.
We had chosen art paper for its high luminosity. It is children’s basic instinct to prefer objects of higher luminosity. This trait is deeply rooted in us since primitive times, when high luminosity often represented a vital source of water. Young children have this instinct for survival.
II. Whiteness of the paper
We have chosen whiter paper over off-white paper. This ensures that colours maintain their high contrast and brightness, and text is displayed clearly. As children are attracted to high contrasting colours, they will be naturally drawn to the books.
Such white paper, however, could sometimes create a reflection that disturbs reading. We have therefore added a subtle tint as the background for text.
III. Weight/Thickness of the paper
Cardboard paper are obviously not suitable for course books. However, thin paper could be difficult for young children to turn the pages one by one. Skipping pages, or relying on parents to turn the pages, can dampen children’s autonomy and confidence which in turn would reduce their interest in reading.
After many test runs and considering the fact that children have yet to develop their coordination and small motor control, we had chosen relatively thicker paper. This, we had hope, would help children to turn the pages themselves, and reduce the chance of children getting paper cuts.
First call for paper change
After the first two editions, we received feedbacks from parents. Thicker paper resulted in heavier books which in turn created three major problems:
- Children found it heavy to carry the set
- It was difficult to carry along when the family goes on trips
- Overseas families had to bear expensive postage
We started a new journey in search for quality paper. We managed to reduce the total weight of the books by 10% while upholding our three basic principles.
A second call for paper change
The paper change had, however, cause an unexpected problem. Hong Kong, together with other southeast Asian regions, has a subtropical climate which has high humidity. The pages of the new paper curled up when the books are left out after a while.
Once again, we set off for another paper hunt.
Fortunately, there have been breakthroughs in technology in all fronts in recent years, the paper industry included. Our choice of paper has expanded.
Our present edition of Basic Chinese 500 is almost 20% lighter than the first edition, and the books lie flat. The best part is that we have heard even more stories of how children enjoyed studying with our books.