Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thomsett, Bloomberg Visual Guide to Candlestick Charting

Bloomberg Press, an imprint of Wiley, has launched a new high-end paperback series that stresses visual learning. Michael C. Thomsett’s Bloomberg Visual Guide to Candlestick Charting (2012) is the first book in the series.

I rarely write about book design even though I spent many years working with some of the top book designers in the country (and, yes, some painfully mediocre ones as well). But since Bloomberg’s new series is essentially a design statement, it is worth spending a little time on layout.

I have two books from this series here for review, so I think I have a pretty good sense of how the series is being structured. Each book is 10” x 7”—that is, it’s wider than it is tall. This extra space is necessary to accommodate marginal boxes with white text on color-coded backgrounds. These boxes contain key points, definitions, smart investor tips, step-by-step tutorials, and do-it-yourself worksheets, formulas, and calculations. The boxed text can be very difficult to read, especially when the background color is light. The task is even more difficult when the text is italicized.

Personally, I find these boxes distracting. The key points, for instance, are “designed to help the reader skim through definitions and text.” But why does the reader need to squint to read the key points from a perfectly lucid two-paragraph text? I’m not exaggerating; there are several such examples in Thomsett’s book. Thankfully, this book isn’t cluttered with boxes in all the colors of the rainbow; by and large the only distractions are orange boxes with white text. (But just wait for the second volume in the series.)

So if you, like me, skip the boxes, what’s left? In the case of Bloomberg Visual Guide to Candlestick Charting, a great deal. The bulk of the book is devoted to individual candlestick patterns, presented alphabetically. Facing pages describe the pattern and its significance in words (verso) and present the pattern graphically (recto). The graphics are absolutely first-rate. The pattern is first shown in a stylized form and then highlighted on a large, clean chart.

Another major section of the book addresses noncandlestick confirmation indicators and terms. For the most part, it deals with chart patterns and technical indicators, some of which are appropriately illustrated. But there’s also a “kitchen sink” element to this section. One finds entries, for instance, on day trading, paper trading, and technical analysis.

A final design quibble. If you’re hard on books, you’ll break the binding of this paperback in no time because the inner margins are very tight. If you prefer to go the e-book route, you’ll get extras: video tutorials and “special pop-up features.”

The book’s core (that is, the text and charts, especially in the candlestick pattern section, sans marginalia) is beautifully executed. It is an invaluable reference guide to candlestick charting. In fact, were it not for the extra “helpful” learning aids, I would unequivocally recommend Thomsett’s book to anyone interested in an elegantly presented catalogue of candlestick patterns. The ill-conceived pedagogical ideas on display in this book only modestly temper my recommendation.

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