adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I've been playing about with fonts again, downloading new ones, trying out typefaces in different settings (oh, that's a a bit of a pun, isn't it?). My interest is primarily in print use, as one is definitely limited when it comes to web-safe fonts.

Though I know this has been changing. There are new standards that allow one to link to non-standard fonts and use them on a web page. It's still a very non-standard standard, however, and won't work in many browsers.

It's also possible to embed flash-powered fonts in a page. I could do that but it seems overkill. And I do hate slow-loading flash pages, having to use a not-very-fast dial-up connection. So I stick with the handful of fonts that are deemed safe for the web.

And they are quite nice enough fonts, even if limiting. There's nothing one can't get across with three serif typefaces -- Times NR, Georgia, Palatino -- and three sans -- Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet. Add in a half-dozen or so other less versatile fonts that most folks have installed and your pages should be fine.

At any rate, this is not a concern for print use. Nor even for ebooks, apparently -- at least I know one can embed fonts in a PDF. Haven't worked with any other format yet but I suppose I'll have to eventually. There is, of course, the question of readability on a screen as opposed to paper.

One must distinguish here between readability and legibility. The fonts designed for use on a computer screen are intended to be highly legible. This does not necessarily make them easily readable in large blocks of text -- like a page in a book (or even on a screen). I would not enjoy trying to read a book in Verdana!

This is one reason I particularly like Palatino Linotype (or Monotype's almost identical copy, Book Antigua). If I were limited to a single serif font for everything, it would probably be my choice -- better on screen than the bland (but quite serviceable) Times, better and more 'serious' on paper than Georgia (which is a nice stylish font and certainly will work for print).

But there are so many other good serif typefaces available. A new favorite is Perpetua, one of Eric Gill's designs (his Gill Sans is a very usable sans-serif, excellent for titling, signs, etc). Perpetua, an early-Twentieth Century design, has a weight to it at smaller sizes that many fonts lack.

Up until now, my designing for print and ebook has been mostly in word processing programs, specifically Word Perfect in recent years. That's the issues of Peripheral Vision, my chapbook, some newsletters, a few other projects. It works fine for smaller projects and I'm sure I could do the same in Open Office, my current WP program of choice. I've used Draw to lay out small print projects too and many graphics programs will do a fine job.

I wouldn't want to do a larger book in such an application, however. That calls for a true typesetting program. My friend Karen, who is a professional typesetter, uses Adobe's Page Maker program. She did a book project on the side (a collection of quotes by a professor at FSU) while we were together, so I got to see some of how that program works.

There's no way I would lay out the money for one of the pricey commercial offerings, especially as word processors have so many similar features these days. There is, however, a well-regarded free open-source offering called Scribus that I intend to download and try out. If and when my internet connection is reliable enough for large downloads.

Just for practice (more or less), I've been laying out Lord Dunsany's 'Gods of Pegana' in Open Office (I'd downloaded a free text version). Why this book? One, because it's in the public domain so I could theoretically publish it. Two, because it's rather short. And, three, because it would be well suited to some original illustrations. Whether I'll do more than play with it, I don't know. I've set it in Perpetua, by the way, 13 point, and it looks pretty decent. If nothing else, I can generate a good-looking PDF for my own ebook-reading pleasure.

There are companies out there that do just this -- republish out-of-copyright material. Dover was a pioneer in that but now, with online publishing, pretty much anyone could dive in. The thing is to have something extra to offer, such as fresh illustrations. It's certainly one way to jump-start a small press.

And print-on-demand can mean an even smaller initial investment. Unlike CD reproduction, where there is a quality difference (albeit pretty slight these days) between those mass-produced by pressing and those 'burnt' one at a time, with printing the process is identical whether printed on demand or in bulk for a major publisher. There is, of course, an economy of scale by having mass printings, if one assumes there will be enough sales, few returns and losses, etc.

So I'll probably go with Lulu again for printing when I have something ready. I know there are more options available there since I last used them, including hard covers and color illustrations. That latter would be important if I attempt a children's picture book.

Though I think the whole bright-colors-for-little-kids is overdone. Let the rug-rats enjoy some classy black and white drawings! Like the one here from 'A Mouse Is In The House.' There's a project I need to finish -- I have five pen and ink illustrations, need to do four more. Maybe I'll color them or maybe not. I even worked up a story board for it some time back but life kind of got in the way of the project.

I've run rather long here. I'd best abandon this meander and go get to work on something.

No comments: