For as long as there have been e-books, my pals in the font design world have been shuddering at the very thought of reading one. And why? It’s all about the font, baby. As the Wall Street Journal explains, “For typography fans, electronic books have long been the visual equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard.”
I’ve seen the nails-on-chalkboard reaction in the type community whenever the topic is mentioned. One could say a lot of things, but it is perhaps easiest to describe e-book typography up until this point as careless. And there’s no excuse for it, not really. The people who make books are used to thinking about the finer points of typography. But when it came to e-books, what went wrong?
Nor are these merely aesthetic points. There are practical considerations, as well. “Typography can affect how fast you read,” says the Journal. “Some fonts propel the eye forward; others cause fatigue. Using eye-tracking tests, Amazon determined that its new font, Bookerly, allows readers to progress 2% faster than its previous default, the clunky but well-performing workhorse font Caecilia.”
And Amazon isn’t the only one to address the problem. Google has been working on their own appropriately named font, Literata.
The two companies took decidedly different approaches. Both wanted fonts that evoked book typography and felt comfortable for hours of reading. They had to work on a range of devices, screen sizes and resolutions, from e-readers to phones and tablets.
You can read more about the approaches they took here.