Help me choose a typeface for publishing
August 8, 2007 7:27 PM   Subscribe

What is a good typeface for a re-published public domain book?

I'm thinking of re-publishing Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" on Amazon's CreateSpace program. I'd like to publish it (and other public-domain works) at or near cost as a public service. Any suggestions for a readable typeface/font size for this book and any others I may (re)publish in the future?

Right now I'm using courier new 10pt, although I personally think it looks a little too "typewriter-y". Any thoughts?
posted by Avenger to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A non-monospaced font would certainly look less "typewriter-y". Have you tried one of those?
posted by demiurge at 7:41 PM on August 8, 2007

Best answer: Georgia (11 point) or Garamond (12 point) would work well. You should have these fonts (assuming you have a PC at least) and that would help keep costs down.

More broadly, I would look at fonts with serifs, which are little stylish details on characters which makes letters much easier to read.
posted by debit at 7:47 PM on August 8, 2007

Response by poster: Maybe I phrased that wrong. I'll probably end up using a serif-style font, right now I'm just using the courier new while I edit. (Also, its the same font as the source material from the Australian Project Gutenberg website).

I guess I'm looking for specific font for readability rather than a question on the merits of monotype vs. serif.
posted by Avenger at 7:48 PM on August 8, 2007

Hate to suggest it, but Times New Roman just because the serif makes it smoother and easier to read.
posted by alon at 7:48 PM on August 8, 2007

An oldie but a goodie: Caslon.
posted by ALongDecember at 7:48 PM on August 8, 2007

I say "help keep costs down" because you wouldn't have to spend money buying a new font for this particular purpose, unless you like doing that kind of thing.
posted by debit at 7:49 PM on August 8, 2007

Seconding Caslon. It is my font of choice for elegance and readability. Alternatively, you could use Bembo, Jenson, or Garamond, all of which have similar qualities.
posted by beerbajay at 8:00 PM on August 8, 2007

Best answer: Garamond. Or Caslon, or really any classic looking serif font that's not Times.
posted by Nelson at 8:03 PM on August 8, 2007

I like a font that is used in various University of Chicago Press books; I don't think it is Times New Roman.

You can see it in this book. (Click "Search Inside!" and then "Surprise Me!")
posted by jayder at 8:24 PM on August 8, 2007

Jayder - that's good ol' Times New Roman.
posted by O9scar at 8:40 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

You might find these links helpful:

Classic Fonts
Making Text Legible

Homage To Catalonia is a great book. Good luck with your project.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 9:08 PM on August 8, 2007

Yeah, garamond & caslon are classic purty fonts. And as the "legible" link above shows, it makes a difference readability-wise if you pay attention to the letterspacing and linespacing so that they aren't too tight or too loose.

Good luck! :)
posted by miss lynnster at 9:21 PM on August 8, 2007

Jayder - that's good ol' Times New Roman.

Really? I wonder why it seems to look different to me, in the books, than it does in my boring old MS Word documents. Maybe the paragraph formatting?
posted by jayder at 9:29 PM on August 8, 2007

First of all, pretty much all body type, whether sans or not, is reasonably readable -- it's been carefully designed to be that way.

What I would do, to make this a little more fun, is find some typefaces that would be appropriate to the time and theme of the book.

Of course, if you're thinking of making a series of these books there's no reason to NOT come up with some kind of branding just for aesthetics sake. So maybe you could choose a slightly quirky (not quirky as in unreadably display font, quirky as in an unusual choice, such as Janson) for all of your books.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:31 PM on August 8, 2007

Gentium: an open-source font. Supports the entire Latin range of Unicode.
posted by Xere at 9:58 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Holy shit, Times New Roman? No. Please, no.


Make sure that you're typesetting these the right way. The proper kerning and leading makes a huge difference in legibility.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:56 PM on August 8, 2007

Book design is a bigger can of worms than just font selection. For example, Times was designed for newspapers and is better suited to narrow columns. For any page size, the exact margins, font, font size, and leading all need to come together harmoniously to create an easily readable and visually appealing page. Readability (no, I don't mean "legibility") should come before stylish design.

The fifteenth edition of the Chicago Manual is set in Scala and Scala Sans.

The fourteenth edition is set in Times is set "in Linotron Times Roman and Baskerville by the PENTA system," according to the colophon. The Times New Roman that Microsoft distributes is different than the Linotype version.

Check out Textism: Twenty Faces.
posted by D.C. at 12:10 AM on August 9, 2007

Bah my bad edit (it is late). Should read: The fourteenth edition is set "in Linotron Times Roman and Baskerville by the PENTA system," . . .
posted by D.C. at 12:16 AM on August 9, 2007

Go through your own library looking for books that feel similar in tone to you, and see what they're set in.
posted by flabdablet at 2:13 AM on August 9, 2007

Before & After magazine has a great primer on print typefaces -- it's free to download here: What's the right typeface for text? Here are some of the suggestions from the article:

- Caslon
- Garamond
- Janson Text 55 Roman
- Utopia
- ITC Stone Serif

It's really worth downloading -- it's just 4 pages long, but it has examples, pointers on leading, and a clear explanation of the criteria that make a particular typeface work for text.
posted by ourobouros at 6:24 AM on August 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, if you're interested in this stuff The Elements of Typographic Style is a must-read (even though it's praised by people who also love Helvetica, and in that case must have not actually read it)
posted by bonaldi at 6:57 AM on August 9, 2007

Before I even clicked through to see the comments, I was thinking "Garamond or Caslon." Glad to see I'm in good company on that. There are many different versions of Garamond—ITC Garamond has a more modern feel to it, for example.

Georgia is a typeface designed for the screen, and not optimized for print. I wouldn't use it for a book.
posted by adamrice at 8:22 AM on August 9, 2007

Garamond is an old favorite of mine, but everyone has had good points and suggestions. If you'll pardon a non-font suggestion, unless you're already using a professional typography system, consider learning and using LaTeX, which is liable to be smarter about the exact placement of letters than you'd find in word processors or desktop publishing apps.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:01 AM on August 9, 2007

ITC Garamond has a more modern feel to it

To nitpick, ITC Garamond is not a "real" Garamond – it's a 1970s distortion of Jannon's work. In any case, its proportions are not suitable for body text; it's display type better for advertising than books.
posted by D.C. at 2:33 AM on August 10, 2007

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