August 14, 2007

Cheap Paperbacks

Posted in books, Typesetting, typography at 3:29 pm by India

useful paperbacks

Today is your last day to buy Dino dos Santos’s typefaces at 50 percent off, but you have an entire month to scoop up goodies from House Industries at a discount.

Sale items include Neutraface, which I’ve had to work with several times and been annoyed by (something about unthoughtful OpenType setup—two jobs ago; I’ve forgotten now), but which some people like the look of, and Chalet, which I remember there being a lot of buzz about when it came out.

What I’m most interested in, though, is Paperback by John Downer (whose TypeCon presentation was one of the ones that made me cringe painfully; but I’m sure he’s very good at designing type). I first read about this when I was designing a lot of swill, and it sounded to me like a useful typeface to have.

Paperback is clearly designed with a particular purpose in mind: to typeset small paperback books. In developing his designs, Downer did extensive research.

“Paperback text was designed and proofed over a period of four years to withstand the vagaries of high-speed printing on low-grade paper, two hallmarks for the ‘paperback novel’ medium. The standard format for a pocket-size paperback was taken into consideration. It’s a small page with justified text, modest margins, significant ink absorption, but usually poor quality ink. Tests were conducted on newsprint and other uncoated paper, both via web offset and photopolymer (letterpress). The faces are resilient in any printing environment, even in newspapers.”

Paperback is appealingly designed and easy to read. It cries out to be used at the smallest sizes, where Downer’s careful work is most evident. The only disadvantage of Paperback for its avowed purpose is that the letterforms are generously wide, so much so that you’d need to design a book page so that it had fairly long lines; otherwise, the number of words on a line might get too small, the word spaces too large, and the page as a whole could look choppy. This depends, of course, on the nature of the text itself; no typeface is appropriate for every book, and no size or leading or line length will work for every author. Paperback is not the least bit narrow or condensed, but it can be set quite small and still be clear and readable, which perhaps achieves the same end.

Has anybody out there actually worked with it? Is it well made? Does it solve problems in real-life book design, or does it fill a much-needed gap?

(Also via pica + pixel.)

Photo: paperbacks by bunchofpants / Lisa B; some rights reserved.

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