Sometimes I wonder.
Someone left a whack of A4 paper in the printer the other day. At first I was annoyed, but then kind of intrigued. You hardly ever see this stuff (hold that thought). So I went looking to find out why the different standard exists. Well, it seems that, unlike letter and legal, which are pretty much arbitrary and seem to have been established mainly because they met someone’s aesthetic sensibilities once upon a time, rounded off to the nearest half inch, the A paper sizes are based on some scientific principles. A5, for instance, is exactly half the size of A4; A3 is twice the size of A4. But not only that: the proportions also scale up. The paper size is based on the golden ratio. One side is always a ratio of the square root of 2, and the other the same ratio to the number 1. A0, the paper size it’s all based on, is one square meter in area. I like systematic stuff like that. So, I thought, hey, why not mess around with working with A4 paper for my own purposes... be a little avant garde, at least on this side of the pond? Word and FrameMaker both have no problem with A4 dimensions. Printers are fine with it. The binding system I have accommodates it.
But can I actually find A4 paper anywhere? Can I, hell. Despite the fact that I live in a city of five million, and one stuffed to the rafters with immigrants from over 100 different countries to boot, and despite the fact that 90% of the planet uses A4 paper every day, here in Toronto I might as well be on Mars as far as getting my hands on any goes. You have special order it in. Can you believe this? I get that we don’t use a lot of the stuff, yet, but given how prevalent it is everywhere outside North America, this is embarrassingly parochial. I remember when a friend in Ireland sent me a set of Guinness drink coasters he’d gathered around Dublin, mounted in an A4 frame whose glass cracked in shipping to me. I went looking for a replacement frame. No luck. I finally had to get glass specially cut. That was six or seven years ago. Still nothing’s changed. I can’t believe this; I really can’t.