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Old 12-12-2013, 08:28 AM   #1
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Use of fonts as literary device

Old printed books were normally limited to one font – many not even willing to incur the expense of italic and bold types. When transferring a book to the digital domain, I like to embellish the typography. One thing is finding nice fonts for headings and initial letters, but what about using different fonts within the text itself?
For example, when the text contains letters and other missives, what about rendering them in a handwritten font, with different fonts for each letter writer?
I have found few examples of fonts used as a literary device. Mark Twain uses it in "A Yankee at the court of king Arthur", where the hero uses German gibberish as magic incantations, and these are rendere as fraktur. Terry Pratchett uses it occasionally in his Discworld novels, notably a golem which "speaks" with a pseudo-hebrew font. And of course it is used extensively in comics; in "Asterix the Gaul" albums, goths speak in fraktur, vikings in pseudo-runes etc.
The standard argument against such font usage is that it contradicts the typographical dogma of maximum legibility. However, given judicious use, it seems unreasonable to let it trump all other considerations. If I may make the comparison to a book reading, it would be a very boring session if the reader gave exclusive priority to clear and unambiguous diction.
What views on this issue exists among my fellow readers and formatters?
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Old 12-12-2013, 10:43 AM   #2
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As a personal amusement like stamp collecting, etc, why not?

As usual, it would be bad manners, at least, to have your beautiful work fall on its face badly in some devices.

Considering the fractured and insane state of device incompatibility, as a pastime it will certainly help you pass the time.
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Old 12-12-2013, 11:11 AM   #3
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I like that To follow the SBT's example, when we have to format letters very frequently, we put them in <blockquote> and we use an italic style; then, why not also to use a custom font (handwritten style would be great for that)? And (of course, depending of the matter of the book) we can use a different font for sidebars, tables, etc.
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Old 12-12-2013, 12:53 PM   #4
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As long as you are aware of the risk of turning your ebook into a 90's webpage or a powerpoint presentation, that's fine.

Another problem of using different fonts, is that you are preventing the user from reading the book in his/her preferred font.
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Old 12-12-2013, 04:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrmikel View Post
As usual, it would be bad manners, at least, to have your beautiful work fall on its face badly in some devices.
Surely the lack of manners should be ascribed device makers who apparently care ***-all about standards compliance? And to what extent should we let us be held back in exploring the potential of e-books because of such negligence?
Anyhow, using alternative fonts shouldn't be that risky – after all, it must be a very poor device which doesn't fall back to standard font if it can't handle the specified one.
Quote:
As long as you are aware of the risk of turning your ebook into a 90's webpage or a powerpoint presentation, that's fine.
You mean like this version of the Gettysburg address?
Quote:
Another problem of using different fonts, is that you are preventing the user from reading the book in his/her preferred font.
Yup, I know... But why, I've never been able to figure out. I'm very fond of Jos Buivenga's Fontin semi-serifed font, and I like to use it in my books, but it's a shame that I have to force my readers to use it, and not have it as an extra alternative. Go figure...
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Old 12-12-2013, 05:25 PM   #6
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Certainly you have better manners than a soul-less corporation....or perhaps you are a projection from the evil planet Amazon!????

There is much to be desired in the whole field. Adobe establishes a standard then it stands still. Apple does whatever it wants and Amazon makes an armload of incompatible standards for its own stuff.

Are you familiar with Dicken's Christmas Carol? Makes one feel like saying bah humbug!
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