Friday, May 12, 2023

July Release

 We have set the official release date for Stephen Brooke's new fantasy novel, "Stones in the Sea," for July 15, 2023. It will be available in print, PDF, and EPUB. Here is the cover:

And the rear cover blurb:

Where to sail but west after escaping his Chilean prison? Into the depths of the Pacific voyaged Yankee seaman Dick Brown, seeking refuge and rest beyond the horizon. What he found was another world, one where his coming had been prophesied, where his destiny was tied to the mystic gems known as the Jewels of the Elements. On lost islands, in mountain fastnesses, Dick discovers that destiny and his place in a new world.

STONES IN THE SEA, a novel by Stephen Brooke

Tuesday, April 11, 2023


We began our publishing journey twenty years ago with the release of Stephen Brooke's first poetry collection, "Pieces of the Moon." On the 21st we will officially publish his twelfth collection (and our 52nd book), "Islanders." Available in print, PDF, and EPUB.

Monday, April 10, 2023


Not long ago, I was recommending Crimson Pro over earlier versions of the Crimson typeface, which had various relatively minor problems. The Pro version was a redesign (not by the original designer) done at the request of Google. There were some fairly noticeable changes to the appearance but the other improvements made these acceptable. Crimson Pro remains a perfectly good and usable typeface, but one that is perhaps better for online use than print.

Then I found that Crimson Text had undergone a revision last year that addressed most of the problems. The Text version, at least to me, seems a more attractive font and a better choice for print. Pro seems to have a taller x-height, the details of serifs etc are more squared-off, and it has other small changes that might make it more readable on a web page but are not so desirable on a printed page. Not that it wouldn’t work, but Crimson Text looks more suited to that role, as well as more 'elegant' (which is very much a matter of personal judgement and taste). There have been comparisons of Crimson to Adobe’s Minion—and one can find similarities—but to my eye, it is more reminiscent of Plantin. And, as Plantin, it is an unassuming, do-it-all, Garamond-esque typeface (although Plantin derives more from the type of Granjon than Garamond). Crimson Text is certainly a useful font to have available.

Make certain you are getting the 2022 version of Crimson Text. What is offered at Google Fonts may not be the latest iteration but the face can be found at its GitHub project page. One of the problems with earlier Crimson type was that it didn’t always print properly in POD applications. This has supposedly been remedied but it would be prudent to watch for that sort of problem (it’s not the only typeface that’s been problematic in POD, including some that are commercial offerings).

No, Arachis Press has not released any books set in any version of Crimson. We almost certainly will, even if we do have a licensed version of Plantin available (we’ve used Plantin in a half-dozen books). It’s just the sort of fall-back typeface that is useful to have in ones toolkit, with an open license so we never need to worry about commercial use.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Humanist Slab-Serifs

The Mid-Twentieth Century saw the emergence of what are sometimes called (accurately enough) ‘humanist slab-serif’ typefaces. These retained—for the most part—the rectangular serifs of earlier slab fonts but varied the axis and the other strokes to create a more humanist feel to the forms, as with the humanist sans faces that were appearing in the same period. One seemingly simple yet elegant example is Candida, which received greater recognition when Bitstream reissued it half a century later.

Around the same time, the company released a somewhat similar humanist slab of their own design, Prima. At first glance, they seem quite alike but one begins to pick out the differences quickly enough. Prima is rather unlovely beside Candida, but the latter undoubtedly influenced (or inspired) its design. It may be noted that Prima, as Adobe’s Utopia and Bitstream’s own Charter, was designed to work well with the low resolution printers of its time.

A second look will tell us Prima is pretty much identical to Bitstream’s Vera Serif, which has since developed into Deja Vu, a popular and widespread free font. Why the name change? In part, we would assume, to mark it as their open license (more or less) offering. An entire family of different fonts was attached to both Prima and Vera, sans and mono versions, designed with the same uses in mind. Deja Vu Serif is certainly a decent enough font, and beloved of the open source community, but we would be unlikely to use it to print a book.

Candida, maybe, but we’d have to pay for a license! In honesty, it’s not the sort of typeface we’d normally consider for a novel. Perhaps for some niche project it would be just the thing. There are, to be sure, other nice-looking humanist slab-serif typefaces available, and some are even open license. It has again become a rather popular concept and more than one recent release, such as IBM’s big family of typefaces, has reflected the trend. By the way, we think IBM Plex Serif is decidedly ugly (a pastiche of varying styles). We’d take Deja Vu over it, any day—it, at least, stays true to its concept.

Kameron, by Vernon Adams, looks pretty decent and is available from Google Fonts. Its lack of a separate italic is, however, problematic, and it is perhaps not really suitable to book text. To be sure, there are also a number of faces that almost fit the classification but are not quite humanist or not quite true slabs. There is not a big gap between humanist slab-serifs and some neoclassical fonts. As always, how they look on the page is more important than what category we place them in.


Islanders Promo

 Stephen Brooke's latest poetry collection, ISLANDERS, is coming in April.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Megafont Review

Softmaker, a software company from Germany, has been selling digital fonts for quite a long time. We recently purchased their Megafont package, some 7500 fonts with a commercial license, for thirty-five US dollars. This seems like a pretty good deal for a small publisher; we can print books with them without any restriction (other than the number of computers on which they may be installed). So—are they as good a buy as they seem?

The first thing to note is that of those thousands of fonts, more than a third are ‘special effects’ versions of the other fonts: outlined, antiqued, etc. These would prove somewhat useless to most of us and we would be unlikely to ever install most of them. Yes, I could possibly see using one in the main titling of a book or something of that sort.

The ‘normal’ fonts are of three sorts, some licensed or reissued from older (often out-of-business) foundries, some outright clones of older type (and not always done that well), and a few original fonts created for Softmaker. It should be noted that the quality of the fonts has improved since Softmaker (and others) started issuing digital type, decades ago. It should also be noted that the big-name foundries (many of which have been bought up by Monotype now) were not always that good either with their digital fonts.

I can not complain about the quality of the typefaces in the package (aside from the aforementioned special effects variants). Most are usable enough, though some lack italics or weights we might want. It is not always easy to tell what other typeface they might mimic, either—what is included might or might not provide a desired replacement font. They tend to be heavy on older and somewhat old-fashioned fonts, from the late Nineteenth–early Twentieth Century period. Many would not be a first (nor even second) choice for publishing modern fiction (though they could work, if nothing else were available).

I will say right here that one could publish quite decent books with nothing but open license typefaces, such as the ones available on Google Fonts. Many of those are geared toward online use rather than print but others are perfectly usable. EB Garamond, Alegreya, Crimson Pro—I would not hesitate to use one of those in a print book. The venerable Charter and Utopia are good too. I could keep listing useful fonts, but back to the Megafont package.

Some fonts from Softmaker have already proven of use. We have redesigned the novel ‘The Crocodile God’ (a fantasy adventure by Stephen Brooke) with their Gareth, a stand-in for Galliard, and it looks just fine. We may revise other books from time to time, though there is no great hurry about it. New books are entirely likely to use open license type, but it is nice to have something to plug into revisions or new additions to a series. The Softmaker package is, if nothing else, security, a back up source of typefaces. The $35 is a fairly good deal really; one could spend that much for a single commercial font.

To be sure, this typeface collection includes many that would be of more use to a designer than a publisher. After all, we do need to design ads and book covers and such, too, so they may well prove useful. Whether I would recommend it to a graphic designer, I’m not so sure. Oh, at that price, why not?

But for the everyday user, maybe not. This is an investment—albeit a small one—in commercial typefaces. For personal use, one would do as well to stick to what is available free. There are more good choices every day!

Friday, February 24, 2023

Jumping Jack Release

Here are links to JUMPING JACK at our store. This is the second Jack Mack science fiction novel by Oliver Davis Pike, official release date February 25, 2023. The print edition should be available from retailers everywhere.