Re: Downsizing (literally) the manuals

Subject: Re: Downsizing (literally) the manuals
From: Elna Tymes <etymes -at- LTS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 10:16:47 -0800

Ron Rothbart wrote:
> Currently, our manuals are 8 1/2 x 11. We are proposing downsizing them to
> the standard 7 x 9 1/2 size. The response to our proposal is generally
> positive, but one marketing manager is asking for "data." She wants us to
> come up with marketing or usability studies that show measureable benefits.

To the best of my knowledge, there isn't any publicly available data of
this sort. What exists are the focus group studies done by the major
publishers back in the 80's, when the shift went from tall books to
shorter ones. (I think it had to do with the height of the average
fixed-height shelf in a bookshelf.) Focus groups rarely produce
statistically defensible results, but they're enough for the marketing
people in publishing companies to work with, usually. And they're

People in the publishing business later went to work for computer
companies, or at least there was a fair amoung of cross-pollination at
some industry meetings, and companies like Microsoft and Apple decided
to use the same approach. What followed was mostly a case of "if
Microsoft and Apple are doing it, they must Know Something, so we'll do
it too."

What has since happened, of course, is that Haworth and other business
furniture manufacturers have seen that most technical books are 9" tall,
so where they make fixed-height bookshelves, that's what they use as a
guide. (And yes, I know all about variable-height bookshelves.)

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems, or

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