Yo, EPUB evangelists!

June 26, 2009

For those of you EPUB designer/evangelists who talk about the way EPUB allows you to embed fonts, listen up: It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.

The only thing that makes a difference is what the EPUB reader has available to it, to wit: Adobe Digital Editions will display one font and one font ONLY.  ITS OWN.

So will Sony reader.

So will FBReader.

You can mark up the text like crazy, but I’m here to tell you, your CSS theatrics is a big fat waste of time. Ask me how I know.

Now, I didn’t set out to become in anywise an expert at this and I’m not and I’m not saying I am. But until such a time as you can make ADE, Sony Reader, and FBReader  display your brilliant design, the EPUB “embed font” “feature” is a non-starter.

Remember: People who seek out and read e-books DON’T CARE about fancy design. They care about content and the ease of its readability.

5 thoughts on “Yo, EPUB evangelists!

  • June 26, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    DE does support embedded fonts. I’ve gotten it working fine.

  • June 26, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I’m way more than willing to admit I’m wrong, and I’ll shout my menu of crow to the rooftops if I ever get it to work.

    However, I will say that I really think that for anything beyond basic formatting courtesies such as full justification, line height, paragraph indent, chapter breaks, and ToC/hyperlinked content, a person who seeks out e-books cares more about content and ease of readability than pretty.

    There is an additional issue: Reader preferences. There are (a) E-book readers that will override embedded fonts and (b) a reader who wants to change the font but can’t because that reader doesn’t override embedded fonts. In the first case, the time was wasted when the reader changes the fonts and such to his preference. In the second case, you risk making the reader mad because he can’t.

    And EPUB files with embedded fonts are huge.

    All that said, I was just sent a source file to examine and will this weekend. I WANT to be proven wrong.

  • June 27, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Hiya. We embed fonts all the time in our epubs (feel free to unpack and poke around inside the one here: http://bit.ly/2N0RVO — we used a lovely open font called Linux Libertine; open so that there were no licencing issues, and we didn’t have to encrypt/mangle the font in the epub package).

    We know most reading software can and will ignore or override our design preferences, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put in the extra five minutes’ effort to make something look better for those who do use, say, ADE, or for when more and more ereaders come to properly support CSS.

  • June 27, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    I’m dubious of the “5 minutes” claim, but I’m eager to crack open your file and see what you did.

    We know most reading software can and will ignore or override our design preferences

    I know that they won’t ALWAYS, but for now I have to balance time and a device’s capability.

  • June 28, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Yes, disclosure: the “5 minutes” claim applies each time we’re reusing CSS (on a relatively small set of tags) that took a lot longer to set up in the first place. And when you’re trying to do a lot of books in a short time, those 5 minutes can add up. Not worth it for every book.

    (Thanks for your follow-up post to this too.)


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