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The hallmarks of a good body font are the same as one would look for in print: The two most noticeable things in text are texture and colour. A vivid illustration of one letterform from metal type drawing, with ink squeeze emulated, in print, and as a hinted eText font. The easiest and more visible improvement you can make to your typography is to use a professional font. If you have a Creative Cloud subscription, you have access to a boatload of Typekit fonts, many of which are available for embedding in an ebook.
Monotype has of of the largest repositories of fonts built for screens — and is more affordable than they used to be with monthly subscription models. Pay attention to end-user licensing agreements to make sure that when you buy a font that you are also buying a license to embed that font in an ebook. There are as many EULAs as there are font foundries and with about as many complications as well. What the heck does this word even mean?
In order to ensure that your ebooks work across the device spectrum, I advise keeping the styling as simple as possible.
You can pull off some pretty cool tricks in some reading systems that will fall utterly flat in other rendering environments. Or might even break completely.
As the goal of most ebook development work is to produce one EPUB file that works everywhere, including conversion to Kindle formats, bearing interoperability in mind is especially key. In my experience, it is possible to make one ebook that works well everywhere.
It is much easier than it was a few years ago, partly because the marketplace is more homogenous. And you might not want to hear this, but testing is key to achieving interoperability.
You need to approach ebooks like a mischievous child, try to stretch, poke, maul and break them. Flip through your ebooks on high-resolution devices, on e-Ink devices, on phones, and on desktop computers.
Any out-on-a-limb design tricks that you try should be rigorously evaluated in the wild to see how rendering differences are going to impact the reading experience. It is possible to use Open Type fonts that support open type features in some reading systems. If you are only publishing to iBooks, knock yourself out.
If you push to more retailers than that, the principle of interoperability will prevent you from using open-type features more broadly. I would suggest that you build a base CSS upon which you layer your design.
The quote above is from a disappeared article on responsive web design from the great Karen McGrane. Because you can not only not exert any control over how your ebook are read, neither can you control the screen size that they are rendered on. The nature of reflowable ebooks is, well, that they reflow. This is a hard message for anyone from a print background to swallow. Give up control over how the content is displayed but trust your semantic markup to do the design heavy lifting.
I hope it goes without saying that you should avoid inline styling, which will interfere with usability at a very basic level, making your content inflexible, anti-responsive, ad with interfere with both legibility and accessibility. If you use inline styling, you might get a pop-up message with my grumpy face on it asking if you really want to ruin the ebook you are developing.
It is not possible to achieve these goals with a direct export from InDesign. Please bear that this in mind if you use InDesign in your production workflows. While not as straightforward as a pleasing page design, or interesting typeface contrast, ebooks can indeed be well designed. An ebook that uses sound semantic markup, is designed with intent for screens, works well across the device spectrum, and is responsive to screen size checks off all the requirements of good ebook design.
Header photo by Vlad Sargu on Unsplash.
A big issue I see with books is how they deal with certain images. A photograph of a person scaled to a small size works. Is it possible to find the x-height and hinting of a Google font? Are there different concerns for web fonts vs. I have never used Indesign to produce an ebook. Does its user license allow you to embed fonts included with the software?
What gotchas should you check for when testing embedded fonts on a reading system? FYI, I compiled a list of included fonts with the major reading systems here: Someone made a demo website analyzing the visual characteristics of Google fonts: Do we know if embedded fonts will work on the new Kindles? Nothing against Bookerly, but…. Your email address will not be published.
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