As I’ve been typesetting Erekos for the last two weeks, I’ve been musing about formatting.
Print is a beautiful thing. It lets you set exactly how you want a reader to experience a story – it gives you the ability to make an aesthetically pleasing container for thought.
I love this. I love taking an unformatted manuscript and picking just the right fonts and printer’s ornaments and drop caps and all that; I love finding the right font sizes and margins to make everything flow together beautifully, in a form that’s worthy of the words that are being conveyed. Maybe it’s part of being a bookbinder – there’s something magical about taking words and making them into an objet d’art, something to be enjoyed on both a physical and intellectual level. It’s one reason why I can’t wait to expand Candlemark & Gleam into the print business – I desperately want to see our authors’ work in bound form, something lovely and tangible.
Thing is, book design becomes something entirely different when you’re going digital. PDF files allow you to present a book as though it were in print form – what you get is exactly what you’d see if the book were printed. The problem is, this is a very inflexible format – PDFs show the exact fonts and design elements the designer wanted, but they won’t reflow to fit different screen sizes, etc. You can zoom, but that’s about it. Rather inconvenient, don’t you think?
The digital revolution opens up a lot of avenues for books. With ePub, .mobi, .ltf, and all the other formats out there, books can be read on any number of devices – the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, the Sony Reader, iPhones, Android phones, and just about anything with a screen. Even cheap mp3 players support .txt files for simple e-reading these days. It’s exciting and wonderful.
But what sort of sucks is the loss of design. I’m reformatting Erekos for ePub as we speak, and instead of using the lovely fonts I’ve chosen – Calisto MT for body copy and Aladdin for drop caps, with Tyro Sans accents and Bodoni standard ornaments, in case you’re interested – I’m pretty much stuck with Times New Roman, Garamond, and Arial.
Now, these are classic fonts for a reason. They’re easy to read, they’re eminently scalable, and they’re installed on friggin’ everything. Garamond, in particular, is a fine, fine font. But in gaining the functionality of reflowing text to suit an individual user’s tastes, we’re losing the design element – we’re losing the lovely, individually selected and carefully composed book-as-art that we have with print.
No drop caps, no lovely formatting, no special design tricks. Just reflowable simple text.
Oh well. This is why we’ll be offering a PDF version – the “pretty” version – in addition to offering every other format we can think of, DRM-free. If you want the pretty, you can get it. If you want the flexible, you can get it. Something for everyone.