Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Free Font Ground-Breakers

Loads of free typefaces flooded the internet pretty much as soon as there was an internet. Many of them were pretty awful, perhaps having some use as display fonts but definitely not suited for use as print text. We’re talking original typefaces here, not clones or copies of older designs (though they certainly could be inspired by them). We’ll write of five serif body-text faces from those early days that were good enough to have survived and flourished.

The first is Deja Vu, the darling of open license fans everywhere, and common in the Linux world. This font has undergone various iterations and redesigns since a form of it first appeared as Bitstream’s Prima, later morphing into Vera and the Deja Vu most commonly distributed today. As some of its successful contemporaries, it was designed to work well with low resolution screens and printers, having simplified forms. Deja Vu is essentially in the humanist slab-serif style, with similarities to such older typefaces as Candida. There have been plenty enough new fonts (many free) of this sort released since but they are not necessarily any better. Not that Deja Vu is a particularly attractive font—we doubt we would print a novel in it. Possibly it could be useful for nonfiction or brochures or that sort of thing; it is readable at quite small sizes.

Bitstream released another font into the wild, intended for much the same roles: Matthew Carter’s Charter. This one draws from the Fournier designs of the Eighteenth Century (as does the somewhat more recent and similar Adobe Source Serif) but simplifies them into a sturdy and attractive font suited to the needs of the time. As computers and printers improved, those needs lessened but Charter remains a quite good and quite free typeface. We would have no qualms about printing a fiction book in Charter (or nonfiction, for that matter), though there are more ‘elegant’ choices. It is a do-it-all font.

As is Adobe’s Utopia, which was designed with much the same roles in mind. Utopia has something of a slab-serif look to it but also draws from ‘Transitional’ and ‘Modern’ typefaces such as Baskerville. It is another all-purpose font. Adobe intended it as a Times alternative, for office use; although it never caught on for that role it remains a quite good typeface. We have issued fiction books set in Utopia. It provides a balance of modern utility and classic elegance. Were we forced to use one font for everything, it might well be our choice. Utopia became free, apparently, somewhat by accident. Be that as it may, it is definitely free to use as we will these days.

Our final two, Gentium and Linux Libertine, were not designed with the shortcomings of early computing in mind, but as traditional typefaces from their origin. Both are frequently referred to as Times replacements, and compared to that font, but we do not find either particularly similar to the Times typeface. Oh, some, to be sure; any serif text face is bound to have similarities or it would become unreadable!

Gentium does share one quality with Times and that is that it is somewhat closely spaced. That is the big problem with Times; it was designed for use in narrow newspaper columns and can become too dense on a book-width page (not to mention a sheet of typewriter paper). Gentium isn’t quite so tightly packed but it is something of which one should be aware. We have used it for poetry books but not for novels. This is not to say we never would. To us, Gentium has a bit of a Goudy-esque feel, with definite calligraphic elements. It is a nice looking but not ostentatious font, workman-like and most certainly usable.

Libertine draws somewhat from the mid-Twentieth Century neo-humanist movement that gave us such typefaces as Palatino and Berling. Although it has never caught on to any great extent as a book font, it may be found in use all over the internet. Wikipedia is the most obvious example. That familiarity could admittedly be a strike against using it for print. We have not used it for a book yet, but intend to in upcoming releases (as a replacement for the above-mentioned Berling). Libertine has the bonus of a true matching sans, Linux Biolinum (Deja Vu Sans has no family resemblance to Deja Vu Serif).

These five have been around for over thirty years, plenty enough time to be thoroughly tested. We would have no reservations about their dependability; whether they have the appearance one desires is another question and one that must be answered on an individual, book-by-book basis. But they will get the job done; they will not let one down.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Hills Release

We are a few days from the release of Stephen Brooke's new Hocking Hills mystery, THESE REMEMBERED HILLS, officially out this weekend, Saturday January 7, 2023. It is available right now in our store and print should be with book retailers everywhere (soon, if not right now—ISBN is 978-1-937745-85-1). Here are links to the novel in our store:




'Remembered Hills' is also up at GoodReads, with early reviews:

We shall shortly be announcing a definite release date for Oliver Davis Pike's latest Jack Mack science fiction novel, 'Jumping Jack.' Probably toward the end of February or early March!