Metric paper

Yesterday I had slept poorly and ranted about the metric system.

I’m feeling better today, so I’ll talk about one part of the metric system that I find beautiful.

I’m inspired by Idiomdrottning’s post on her planned updated D&D note/logging system

Metric paper sizes: they are too good to not use, and if there’s ever a movement to ditch the US “letter” size for A4 paper here, I would be its earliest adopter.

See, I’m a bit of an older/former punk, so I’ve written a few zines. In case you’re unfamiliar with zines, they’re made on letter-sized paper, folded in half, and stapled along the centerfold (this is called “saddle-stitching”). When you’re using half pages of letter sized paper, you’re designing for a different aspect ratio than the standard letter paper itself (11/8.5 ≈ 1.29 for letters, 8.5/5.5 ≈ 1.55 for zines).

Metric paper sizes were chosen to avoid this by using an aspect ration of √2/1 (≈ 1.41). When you cut a sheet of A4 paper in half (across its shortest dimension), you get two A5 sheets of paper, which have the exact same ratio between side lengths as the A4 sheet you started with. This greatly simplifies digital zine distribution; you can post a PDF that uses the standard A4 paper size, and anybody who wants to print and distribute your zine has the option of either printing this version, printing two pages per sheet to save paper, or — if they want to make a proper zine — shrinking and “imposing” the pages before folding and stapling. (This is another place where “everybody else uses it” is a good reason to adopt the metric system: print-ready material like zines would only need to be designed for a single size.)

I may be skeptical of “rationality”, but I do love a good ratio.