Typography And A Beautiful Book Are Not Dead

Typography And A Beautiful Book Are Not DeadTypography is not dead and is still important to many.

The ebook may seem to have taken the world by storm, but in fact, it has only been a genuine tempest in a few countries.

Outside the major Amazon Kindle markets such as the US, UK and Germany, it has hardly been a rain squall.

I live in Switzerland, very close to France, and if I mention ebooks or the Kindle to my French speaking friends, I may as well be talking about Martians landing on the Moon. “C’est quoi ça?”

The iPad they know very well, but almost no one I know has ever looked at the iBooks app, let alone installed the Kindle app. Why, because books are books and the typography books offer can never be matched by an ebook.

The book is very much still alive and well in the French speaking world, as it in is many other countries and language regions around the world. “But they don’t read in English,” I hear you say immediately. Wrong.

The Internet has made English a global language, and while it’s only a small percentage of my book sales, I do sell books in France, as well as other non-English speaking countries. But only books.

In my mind, this is one very good reason to always publish in paperback by Print-On-Demand. (POD)

Another benefit of a book is that, unlike an ebook, it can be shared. How often have you ever heard someone say, “A friend lent me one of your e-books, and it was so good I bought three of your latest ones.” Never. But you have probably heard a similar story many times about a book.

A book is the best advertising an author can have. I received a message from an online friend telling me that she had seen someone reading one of my books on a train in India. That was a very nice message to receive.

These are just a few reasons why I have always published my books in paperback POD.

Over the last four years or so, when it has come time to publish, preparing the e-book file is always the same. No text larger than 18pt, single line spacing, first line indent, no paragraph space allowed and use a minimum of styles and one font. Times New Roman.

After the first couple of times, it gives about as much satisfaction as filling in my tax return. There is also no thrill in store. It’s done, and in 24 hours it appears online.

However, when I have prepared my book versions, my imagination is free to make the words I have written flow on each page and look exactly how I would like my potential readers to see my words.

The difference that typography can make to the reading experience is something e-books will never replace. It is a joy to manipulate line spacing, letter spacing and use kerning to bring a text alive.

This is the time I dump Microsoft Word, and switch to Apple Pages, as it has so many features that have Steve Jobs’ fingerprints on them.

He was a lover of typography, and the first big market breakthrough for Apple was with their Macintosh in 1984, which sold like hotcakes to typesetters. I know this for a fact because I was selling them back then.

Back to now, though. For POD, a pdf file needs to be prepared for publishing, so what you see in the final pdf version will be replicated exactly in the book. There are no rules to follow, only your imagination.

As an example of what a difference very simple typography enhancements can make to a text, look at this sample below. The four paragraphs now each have their own feel and readability without any change in font. All use Georgia, except for the lead in line in the fourth paragraph, which is Abadi MT.

Good typography

When it comes time to self-publish your next book, you have to have an ebook version available of course.

But don’t forget about how wonderful a real book is, and how you can make it read exactly how you imagined with beautiful typography, and then it can be made available to anyone who wants to buy it, or lend it, or read it on a train anywhere in the world.

As an author, you know how exhilarating it feels when you finally hold that first copy of your book in your hands and thumb through the pages. I never tire of that feeling.

It’s an emotion an e-book will never be able to deliver.

Update Note: Draft2Digital has introduced better typography option for ebooks, which is worth investigating.

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

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