Book Design: Word vs Adobe InDesign®

Book Design: Word vs Adobe InDesign®

Above Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash


Dec 28, 2023

Serving many first time authors and publishers, we often get questions regarding book design programs and what to use. Can I use the Word program for book design is one of the first questions we sometimes hear. Technically speaking, we can print from a Word file which has been saved to a PDF format. From a printer’s perspective, that’s OK with us. But as a matter of preference, from a book design perspective, the answer is no for most book projects. Especially for the types of heavily illustrated or photographic editions which we tend to specialize in.  Here’s a longer explanation as to why we prefer Adobe InDesign®.

Word is a program designed to organize text—word processing. Adobe InDesign® is a professional page layout software designed for creating short or long documents for publication. It’s usually quite easy to spot documents prepared with Word rather than a program like InDesign. They just look plain and are lacking design features that arouse interest and make the book inviting to look at. In this design conscious world, an inferior book design can greatly affect the potential success of your project.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

If you are contemplating a DIY (do it yourself) approach to a book project, we encourage you to use Adobe InDesign® to create the PDF files which we as printers will use to print from. We also understand that the computer you may be working on might have come with Word installed as a default option, and you will need to pay extra to obtain and learn InDesign. Word is also pretty fast to learn, whereas the learning curve for InDesign will be admittedly take longer to learn. But I can attest that it will be worth it to learn InDesign or have a professional freelance person use InDesign instead of Word to layout your book. We are not connected to Adobe, just giving our unfiltered advice here.

Taking advice from my previous spotlight interview with Matt Steinhausen  a successful self publisher:

I had asked Matt: “Having gotten to the finish line on this book production, would you have any tips or advice to authors or photographers who want to go the DIY self publishing route?”

His answer:  1) Learn how to use Adobe InDesign for layout; 2) Find a good printer you trust; 3) Know your subject matter, and more importantly, know your audience; 4) Edit, edit, edit.


Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Word are both powerful tools, but they serve different purposes when it comes to book design. Typically, Word is used by authors to create a manuscript and is perfectly acceptable for that purpose of word processing.

Here are some reasons why a person might choose Adobe InDesign over Word for book design:

Industry Standard for Print Design:
While Word can be suitable for simpler documents and basic layouts, InDesign is the preferred choice for complex book layouts, especially in professional publishing and design environments.

Advanced Typography and Layout Control:
InDesign provides more advanced typographic and layout features than Word. It offers precise control over typography, kerning, tracking, leading, and other design elements. This level of control is crucial for creating professional-looking book layouts.

Master Pages:
InDesign allows you to use master pages, which are templates that can be applied consistently across multiple pages. This feature is especially useful for maintaining a consistent layout throughout a book.

Long Document Handling:
InDesign is designed for handling long documents, making it more efficient for book-length projects. It can easily manage large files and complex layouts without the performance issues that may arise in Word.

Interactive Features:
If you are creating digital books or e-books with interactive elements, InDesign provides better support for embedding multimedia, hyperlinks, and other interactive features.

Print-ready Output:
InDesign is renowned for its precision in creating print-ready files. It allows for more accurate control over bleeds, color separations, and other print-related settings, which is crucial for professional printing. Most book projects will require a text file (multi-page PDF) + a cover file. It’s much easier to accomplish this with InDesign.

Photo by Rey Seven on Unsplash

If you’ve explored all this and agree – you should use InDesign, but don’t have the time or patience to learn the program, then we suggest reaching out to a freelance designer. It will be well worth the investment vs. having an inferior book design to compete in this design conscious world. If you are not tapped into a network of freelance book designers who can perform this task for you, contact me and I can put you in touch with a few options. We work with many book designers across the USA and Canada and will be happy to refer you to an appropriate source for book design.

In my next post, I will go into the comparison of using Adobe InDesign vs Photoshop. Many photographers we work with are more familiar with Photoshop and we will go into the details on the different ways files are handled in Photoshop vs InDesign.

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Free Consultation for Individuals & organizations!

When it's time to print your book, let us be your guide!
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With over 30 years of Book Publishing experience, Marathon Press has helped thousands of clients self-publish anywhere from 20 to 50,000 copies of their book titles. Marathon has worked with several of the top names and organizations in the photography and photobook industry.

Wire-o Bound Booklets and Calendars

Twin Loop, Mechanical Binding

Wire-o Binding for Calendars, Cookbooks and more!
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Some of the style variations we offer are: *Soft cover Wire-O, *Hard cover Wire-O and *Concealed Wire-O (both hard cover and soft cover) * Twin Loop with Calendar Hanger

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Sizes from 8 x 8 up to 14 x 19" !

Layflat Albums
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Marathon’s Layflat Albums are produced with German Pro Photo paper which has a matte finish and a neutral white point with a slight shimmer. Water resistant so you can easily clean off a spill. Acid free and chlorine free.

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Let us be your Guide!

Choose between printed hard cover or cloth bound with optional foil stamping. Optional dust jacket printing with 3 lamination options

Let us help guide you to the most appropriate paper options for your book project. We have 9 standard text options and 6 standard soft cover weight options for paperback books.

We have a long track record of award winning quality work for some of the most demanding artists and photographers in the industry!

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Martin Pugh


(402)-371-5040  ext 289