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?
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.
‘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.
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).
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.
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
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?
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!