About Fonts

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When creating an e-book, you should not attempt to make the body of the text conform to your latest fancy font.  The platform and the reader’s preferences should, and mostly will, prevail anyway.  Save the fancy font for the front matter of your book and the chapter and title headings.  Other than making sure that it is legible, you can use a font which will add distinction to your e-book. The problem, though, is that many older and more primitive readers, such as the original Kindles, will not use your fonts and will respond to a change in font size or italics only.  Too bad for us, because the page then becomes bland and ordinary.

The other issue is concerning the old bugaboo, the copyright.  Yes, many fonts, even ones resident on your computer, may not be used commercially without authorization.  That means a fee, in case you are wondering. The other issue is that postscript fonts will not be displayed by all e-readers.  You should use, therefore, a TrueType font.  The TrueType was developed early in the 80’s by a joint effort between Microsoft and Apple.

Don’t be discouraged, however, because there are many places on the web to obtain free, copyright free, fonts in the TrueType style.  http://www.fontsquirrel.com has both free fonts and a converter for changing nearly any font to a TrueType.  You have to be sure that the font you use from your own system is in fact free to use before you proceed.  Fonts that you select should be installed in the folder that you are using and will be called by your style sheet (more on this later.)

By the way, sizing your font in HTML is different than in a word processor and once you get used to the idea and technique, far easier and more reliable.  As I mentioned previously, I recommend that you purchase Guido Henkel’s book, Zen of eBook Formatting.  He lays it out for you concerning font use.  We both recommend use of the em sizing method, as you shall see.

So far, in this and the previous blog, I keep postponing detail with the “more on this later.”  The reason is that I will present all the necessary information in one spot to keep you from digging through the text to find the next step.

There is one more thing I would like to mention about fonts.  The first letter of a new chapter is, by custom, larger and florid, or at least descendent into the following line. It does look better than simply starting the chapter with an ordinary letter.  I have two methods that have worked for me and both have good and bad issues.  The first method is to use a fancy font, larger in size with no indent.  This method works well in most cases, but there are problems, particularly with the Apple readers. The other alternative also works well with your printed book. With this method you will need the imaging software we discussed earlier.  I use Photoshop but other products will work.  The font is converted to an image (jpg) and sized slightly larger than you will require.  After inserting the image into your html file, the image is sized using the em method, your text starting on the same line.  I will include an example of this in the final blog on this topic.

Alexander Francis

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