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Thread: Good fonts to use when printing a book?

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    practical experience, FTW Arcadia Divine's Avatar
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    Good fonts to use when printing a book?

    Not too sure if I posted this in the right forum, but what's a good font to use when formatting a novel for printing? Is there any specific type of font used in this case? I'd imagine some are better than others.
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    crazy mean SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    What you're talking about is typesetting.

    People train for years to learn how to do it well.

    There is far more involved than using a good font and "formatting".

    I'm sorry to be so blunt, but it grieves me to see someone talk about such a complex issue in such throwaway terms.

  3. #3
    "Typesetting" in the traditional sense hasn't been done since 1978 as far as I know. My uncle did it for a while for a small press in Birmingham (they used to publish a socialist newsletter!). I think he trained for about six weeks. Then again, maybe he didn't do it that well. ;-)

    Today, your biggest concerns are choosing the right size and (as you rightly wonder) the right font. But almost as important is watching for awkward line breaks, funny hyphenations, widows/orphans, etc. Software is a pretty good designer, but it doesn't always get things right. So basically you should go line-by-line and have a consistent set of rules. If you stay sharp and watch it like a hawk (a hawk with OCD), you'll be okay.

    As for your original question, as far as the 21st century goes, I hear a lot of people complain about Times New Roman -- so sure as heck don't use that. Otherwise, scour some free font sites and pick something you like. Choose something that's in the realm of Bookman Old Style or New Century Schoolbook. But look hard at the license. Make sure you get one that says something like "free for commercial use." Sometimes those can be hard to find, so if you can't get one, try for something where the fontographer says "contact me if you want to use it commercially." Send them a message, describe your project, and ask humbly if you can use it.

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    I'm gonna give all my secrets away Spell-it-out's Avatar
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    Palatino and garamond are nice fonts, check them out.

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    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jones() View Post
    Software is a pretty good designer, but it doesn't always get things right.
    Just to say: software is a terrible, terrible type designer. Don't rely on software to typeset your book any more than you would rely on it to edit your book.

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    crazy mean SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jones() View Post
    "Typesetting" in the traditional sense hasn't been done since 1978 as far as I know.
    Then what you know doesn't stretch very far.

    I have friends who earn their living from typesetting.

    They don't use hot metal any more. But they're still typesetting, and it's still a very particular skill which very few people are capable of doing well.

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    Hi Arcadia - Personally, I like Times New Roman and there are many people that do. Not everyone agrees with any font. I published a print version of my novel almost 6 weeks ago now, and after checking out several different fonts, my printer and I decided to use the TNR in the 11 pt. size. I originally wrote in 12 pt., but reduced it to get my novel from 350 pages to 330, which lowered the price significantly for the number of books I was having printed. The difference in the way it looked was negligible to both of us.

    For the e-book version I'm soon to publish, I'm using 12 pt. TNR. I suggest you read, read, read these threads and you'll learn many things that will help you with your final product. Cheers!
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    practical experience, FTW fivetoesten's Avatar
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    For what it's worth (maybe not much) there's Commercial Use Free Fonts (from fontsquirrel.com), and Scribus (free typsetting/layout software).

    Might give you something to think about, anyway.
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    Times New Roman, 12 point size.
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    practical experience, FTW Arcadia Divine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    What you're talking about is typesetting.

    People train for years to learn how to do it well.

    There is far more involved than using a good font and "formatting".

    I'm sorry to be so blunt, but it grieves me to see someone talk about such a complex issue in such throwaway terms.
    No worries. I didn't realize I was using throwaway terms. I'll definitely remember that next time.

    Edit: I actually appreciate comments like that because you were polite. You've already given me something to think about.

    Ps: That is an interesting avatar lol
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    practical experience, FTW Arcadia Divine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torgo View Post
    Just to say: software is a terrible, terrible type designer. Don't rely on software to typeset your book any more than you would rely on it to edit your book.
    Any particular reason why it's so terrible? It seems to be very widely used so if the software was really that bad then why do people use it? You'd think someone would step up to make it better if that was the case.

    Btw, I'm not saying your wrong, I'm just trying to understand why you say this.
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    A bit of a wallflower absitinvidia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcadia Divine View Post
    Any particular reason why it's so terrible? It seems to be very widely used so if the software was really that bad then why do people use it? You'd think someone would step up to make it better if that was the case.

    Btw, I'm not saying your wrong, I'm just trying to understand why you say this.

    I think the point is not that you shouldn't use design software, but that you shouldn't rely on it to do the job properly. You need a careful set of human eyes--more than one set, preferably--to look for things the software isn't going to catch. Bad word or line breaks. Rivers. Stacks. Kerning that needs to be adjusted. Things like that.

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    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcadia Divine View Post
    Any particular reason why it's so terrible? It seems to be very widely used so if the software was really that bad then why do people use it? You'd think someone would step up to make it better if that was the case.

    Btw, I'm not saying your wrong, I'm just trying to understand why you say this.
    Because typesetting, the deliberate decisions about the placement of a glyph in space, is a matter of art and craft.

    It requires a human.

    Software, especially in the hands of the unknowing, will bork typesetting.

    MS Word will screw up the use of curly / printers' quotations and apostrophes in the context of em-dashes, sycope, or contractions.

    Software can't spot rivers, the white space created when text is poorly tracked.

    I'd also urge avoiding any font that isn't created by a major foundry; they won't have full character sets, or complete kerning tables, and the postscript is likely to be borked.

    Google typesetting. Google book design. Read the sections in the Chicago Manual of Style about book design, layout and typesetting.

    Look closely at lots of commercially printed books, especially those from the 1980s and 1990s.

    Times New Roman, Palatino, Garamond, Janson, Caslon, Minion, Bookman, Book Antiqua, are standard body text typefaces for books.

    Look at the relationship between leading and typesize.

    Go to your local Kinkos or print shop and print out a few pages of your books intended for print using the template with the crop marks that the vendor suggests you use.

    Compare it, side by side, with books of the same sort that you own from commercial publishers.
    Last edited by Medievalist; 12-06-2012 at 09:52 PM.

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    Good advice, except for this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Medievalist View Post
    Software, especially in the hands of the unknowning, will bork typesetting.
    My lady friend is a printer. She uses software all the time and gets it right. Because though even the best software is imperfect, it CAN do 99% of the work.

    Then the expert human handles the areas at which the software fails.

    Word, as Medievalist points out, is especially poor. Use one of the professional pieces of software designed for the purpose of type-setting. Just don't depend on it to do the entire job.

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    practical experience, FTW Arcadia Divine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    My lady friend is a printer. She uses software all the time and gets it right. Because though even the best software is imperfect, it CAN do 99% of the work.
    Medievalist's point still stands. Software may be able to do 99% of the work, but if the user uses that 99% the wrong way because they don't know any better than the software is useless.

    Btw Medievalist, thanks for the response.

    Word, as Medievalist points out, is especially poor. Use one of the professional pieces of software designed for the purpose of type-setting. Just don't depend on it to do the entire job.
    Well I do have a copy of Indesign that I got from Adobe CS6 Master Collection just in case.
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    Quote Originally Posted by merrihiatt View Post
    Times New Roman, 12 point size.
    Close. Times New Roman, 11 point size.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MartinD View Post
    Close. Times New Roman, 11 point size.
    I think it's a matter of personal preference. I like Times New Roman 12 point size because it's easier to read. Cambria is easy to read as well but probably should be 11 point size.

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    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcadia Divine View Post
    Well I do have a copy of Indesign that I got from Adobe CS6 Master Collection just in case.
    Indesign is the standard kit these days for designers. Yeah, this is the point: good typesetting is pretty much the same skill as it's always been, but the tools are different. What you simply can't do is rely on an algorithm to typeset your book, any more than you could rely on one to proof or copyedit. Even if you have a button that zaps any obvious howlers, you're still going to have to comb through in the time-honoured manner to spot anything it missed, and to recover any false positives. It's quicker and easier these days, but the most important thing is still the designer's eye.

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    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    My lady friend is a printer. She uses software all the time and gets it right. Because though even the best software is imperfect, it CAN do 99% of the work.
    If she uses the automated processes alone, the software will bork it.

    Because no script, no matter how expertly written, is not as good as a trained eye and a good brain.

    There's a QuarkExpress script for checking for widows/orphans.

    If you're using any non-roman glyph in a paragraph, that paragraph is skipped.

    Theres a script in InDesign to automate tracking. If any paragraph has a word with eleven or more characters, the script over tracks the entire paragraph.

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    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Times New Roman is spiky and narrow, designed to get the greatest number of words into a newspaper-width column. In a book-width page it's ugly, verging on painful.

    For my printed books I prefer Palatino Linotype.

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    What exactly are professional typesetters doing that Indesign or Scribus can't do in the hands of a capable computer savvy person?

    Just saying they are needed doesn't give us a clear understand of the specific whys.

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    crazy mean SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tettsuo View Post
    What exactly are professional typesetters doing that Indesign or Scribus can't do in the hands of a capable computer savvy person?

    Just saying they are needed doesn't give us a clear understand of the specific whys.
    Medievalist has already explained some of it, but to give you an idea, try this:

    What exactly are professional writers doing that Microsoft Word can't do in the hands of a capable computer savvy person?

    Just saying they are needed doesn't give us a clear understand of the specific whys.
    There's a lot more to good typesetting than flowing the text through a computer program. It's a design skill which few people have.

    If you're still not convinced, format a Word document to look like a book as best you can, print it out, and then compare it to a book from a good trade publisher.

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    A Gentleman of a refined age... thothguard51's Avatar
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    Arcadia,

    I used to type in Times New Roman, 12 pitch. Then a publisher I submitted to would only accept in Courier, or New Courier. After converting from Roman to Courier, my 100,000 word novel gained about 30 pages. There is that much of a difference in the type set.

    Now, I have grown used to Courier and I suspect if I ever self pub, I will use Courier or another just like it. Reason, each character is the same width and easy on the eyes to read, especially in e-books.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    Medievalist has already explained some of it, but to give you an idea, try this:

    There's a lot more to good typesetting than flowing the text through a computer program. It's a design skill which few people have.

    If you're still not convinced, format a Word document to look like a book as best you can, print it out, and then compare it to a book from a good trade publisher.
    I get why you wouldn't use Word to set up your print file, it doesn't do the job properly. But, Indesign and Scribus both do a great job of it so long as the person using it take some time to learn the programs (it doesn't take long to do so).

    I guess what I'm not convinced about is the absolute need to hire a typesetter to get a professional looking book. Personally I believe you can achieve this with some work. This is why I'm asking for specifics about typesetting. What can't be achieved by a DIYer and a few days of research?

    BTW, I used a san-serif font type for my text. I choose it specifically for it's near machine appearance and clarity. I'm writing a scifi / military novel and I didn't want the flair of a serif font. It was a matter of style choose for me.

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    crazy mean SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tettsuo View Post
    I get why you wouldn't use Word to set up your print file, it doesn't do the job properly. But, Indesign and Scribus both do a great job of it so long as the person using it take some time to learn the programs (it doesn't take long to do so).

    I guess what I'm not convinced about is the absolute need to hire a typesetter to get a professional looking book. Personally I believe you can achieve this with some work. This is why I'm asking for specifics about typesetting. What can't be achieved by a DIYer and a few days of research?

    BTW, I used a san-serif font type for my text. I choose it specifically for it's near machine appearance and clarity. I'm writing a scifi / military novel and I didn't want the flair of a serif font. It was a matter of style choose for me.
    If your book isn't typeset properly then your readers are going to be put off it. They might not know why, or be able to explain what's wrong with it: but they might find it difficult to read for no obvious reason, or find that it jars on their nerves somehow.

    As for my Word analogy: you missed my point. It wasn't intended to imply that Word can set up a print file: read it again, and think about whether Word provides the equipment required for anyone to write a book properly. If that's too oblique for you, consider this: does owning a good pair of running shoes mean that you're suddenly a world-class runner? Or does having access to the best set of straightening-irons make you a brilliant hairdresser?

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