About Blüroof Logo: modified Tomoe mon. Blüroof Press

Over a decade ago Jacob Epstein, one of the great eminences of traditional New York publishing, predicted that the rapidly evolving book publishing technologies of print-on-demand and electronic printing could take publishing back from the mega-corporations that had bought up and consolidated most of the major publishing houses in New York. They would bring us to the day when publishing "...become[s] once more a cottage industry of diverse, creative, autonomous" work; an industry of book-loving publishers, individuals who treat their pursuit as an avocation, determined to offer not only their own work, but the work of others they admire.

Dave Doody is one of those individuals. Robotic space flight engineer since 1982, he has also been proprietor of SCI / Space Craft International, a leading online provider of quality spacecraft scale model kits since 1987. He started Blüroof Press in 2011 as an activity of SCI. Dave says,

"I have been fascinated by books all my life; in the 1960s I began to appreciate the art of typography. Quite natural for an engineer, I think. Recently, the arrival of the publish-on-demand technology, the excitement of e-books and the stunning technological advance of e-readers, I saw that I could add a new high-quality product to the SCI Catalog.

"My previous products were serious designs of intricately laser-cut 100% recycled card stock. Assemble one, and you know instantly how Voyager works, how the Hubble Space Telescope works. And you have a handsome display for your desk.

"I've been proud of the quality of communications this approach has proven. Now, here's a fine, high-fidelity way to distribute the written word. A perfect new SCI Product!

"I was initially spurred on by wanting to publish my friend Mitch Scaff's Beacon. I think he's written a stunning novel, a real game-changer in the science fiction field, one that will complement all the science non-fiction that SCI has always presented. And I want to do it justice by getting it out to all the right readers. Work is proceeding well on Beacon, and it should be released in or about December of 2013.

"While Mitch was working on Beacon I decided to publish Basics of Space Flight as the first nominal Blüroof Press title, based on material I had developed and written for a NASA website primarily to help operations people grasp the range of concepts associated with deep-space robotic missions. (As a first proof of concept, I ran Alarums & Excursions through the mill, but it doesn't bear the Blüroof imprint, because the logo was still in development). Basics had become such a popular site among college and high school students and faculty, and lay people who are interested in interplanetary space flight, that I thought it was time it went into the SCI Catalog.

"While I was working on preparing Basics of Space Fight for print, which included a ton of approval meetings with offices at JPL that I hardly knew existed, Steven Paul Leiva sent me his manuscript for a science fiction novel asking my opinion — as someone who has worked among scientists for years — whether his take on scientists in the book rang true; I confirmed that he did have a good feel for them. Plus, I found the novel, Traveling in Space, a fantastic read — satirically funny, philosophically sound and just one good story. It's a first contact novel from the point-of-view of the aliens.

"I asked Steven if I could publish Traveling in Space. He was interested, especially if we added some illustrations, something rarely done these days except for children's books. Steven is a lover of genre books of the past that included illustrations — Sherlock Holmes, Jules Verne novels; he really wanted this book to include some; I thought it was a great idea so I said, Why not!"

Blüroof Press does not mark the first time Dave has been involved with books. For many years Dave has been writing and creating books in support of his teaching. In the late 1960's, one of the students in his Private Pilot Ground School at a local college worked as a typesetter at a nearby print shop in northern California. They collaborated on Dave's tome on aviation charts, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sectionals But Were Afraid To Ask.

"I was blown away by this new machine at the print shop, not much larger than a couple of big typewriters, that could make professional looking, proportionally spaced lines of type without using molten metal," says Dave, comparing it to the earlier technology of the Linotype Machine.
Then in the early 1970s, Dave found himself using the new cutting-edge, but expensive process, phototypesetting, to support his full-time teaching of cockpit crews for Japan Air Lines. When microcomputers became available to consumers, based on the Intel 8080 chip, JAL let Dave institute an Instructional Systems Development department. He designed teaching facilities, and made a series of interactive displays using that computer chip, and its assembly language, to illustrate certain things about the various systems on a fanjet aircraft that pilots needed to know. To support training document production, he hired a programmer to pioneer an application of proportional-space typesetting software for Gary Kildall's CP/M operating system and Qume daisy-wheel impact printers.

Starting in the 1980s, intricate physical mechanisms became obsolete as intricate computer software "engines" appeared; laser printers and desktop publishing software summarily overtook previous technologies in the mainstream, relegating many to "quaint" status.

Around that time, Dave persuaded Caltech's JPL to hire him to fly robots in deep space based on his flying experience and his working knowledge of computers from the bit level up, but he never quit writing and teaching. His writing produced technical memos and papers and procedures and operations interface agreements, as well as popular articles in such magazines as Sky and Telescope, and The Planetary Report. His teaching was via a local college after-hours, and on the web and in magazines.

Then two serious technologies entered from the wings, where they had been quietly developing. Dave learned of the first one when a European publisher asked him to write Deep Space Craft, an overview of interplanetary flight.

"The publisher asked me if I would be using TeX software. I had never heard of it. But after ten minutes of googling, learning along the way that it's pronounced like the "tech" in "Caltech," I said yes, of course I will."
The advantage to the publisher is that TeX directly generates a fully typeset and professionally formatted book. TeX basically incorporates a brain-download from luminaries of the world's expertise in typesetting and document preparation. Virtual brains-in-a-box. Downloadable free of charge.

While targeting the book's content to participants in the class he teaches at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Dave used TeX to give the publisher a file that their expert would then polish into the final hardcover book.

So it seems book production engines have completed their transition to expertly selected silicon pathways for bits, instead of cast type-metal and line spacers made of lead. They are still very intricate machines because their task is to apply the virtually infinite art of conveying the printed word, but they are portable and free. You have the equivalent of ten tons of steel and lead on your laptop.

The second great book-production technology of our day is Print On Demand, POD. Now we all have yet another ten-ton device at our fingertips. Upload a PDF. Get an ISBN. Click here. A book is printed, perfect-bound and nicely trimmed, and it appears in your hands via the mail.

"All very convenient," Dave says. "But I like to picture the `virtual' machine as if it were still twenty tons of steel and lead, and to always question whether the quality of words and sentences and paragraphs in a manuscript would be deemed worthy of such ponderous machines. Regardless that the machines today are weightless and easy to use, I'd strive to make compelling, high-quality books that can stand among books from previous worlds of technology."
The most recent book production technology is, of course, digital-print e-books readable on e-readers, desktop, laptop and tablet computers, and smartphones. Dave feels that even e-books should also have the look and æsthetic qualities of the best print-on-paper books from the past, and he is determined that Blüroof Press will apply the expertise necessary to make its e-book editions meet that standard.

The first book published by Blüroof Press, Basics of Space Flight (2011) was produced using the "twenty tons" of TeX and POD — as was its proof-of-concept predecessor. Basics is actually in two titles, one color and one black & white. They are available now from Amazon.

In appreciation of the rich history of printing, Dave has recently been studying the art of manual typesetting and letterpress with Art Center College of Design's Archetype Press. As to the future — a place Dave says we create every day — he looks forward to finding good material, publishing that material, and offering it to readers everywhere via print and digital media (see Submissions Policy).

About the logo: Blüroof Press uses a modified "tomoe" for its logo. The tomoe is a particular design used in ancient Japan as a heraldic device, or "mon." This particular one, when incorporated into one's roofing tiles, has been said to keep the roof intact and free from leaks. Dave first encountered them during a trip to Kyoto:

"I was struck by the three seeming forces chasing each other in a circle. I thought of how that idea might have come from the more ancient belief in the three gunas, which propagate Nature through time; I thought of the three quarks that make up all baryonic matter. Cool logo."

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