Thursday, August 13, 2015

What's wrong with Times New Roman?

In a discussion I follow about self-publishing and book design, a knowledgeable participant wrote: "But whatever you do, DON'T EVER set a book in Times New Roman or a comic font. . . ."

What's wrong with Times New Roman? She cited three reasons: "First, it's a narrow font, designed to make newspaper columns work better. On the wider page of a book, with the longer line length? It makes your eyes get tired faster." Second, "it makes your book look subtly 'wrong' to those who are less clued-in." Third, "MS Word uses it as a default font, and beginners always use it, because they're used to it. It's acceptable for basic word-processing documents, but not for books. Using it labels you as not well-informed, leading those who can do your book a lot of good (or not) to put the book on the 'ignore' pile."

Ouch. My three novels are set in Times New Roman. Not much I can do about the first two, but I could still change Death in a Family Business type, so I experimented. Here are the results:
While the Goudy and Baskerville faces are somewhat more open than Times New Roman, they do not seem different enough to make the effort to change the entire book. 

Bookman, however, is both more open and more readable and if I were starting from scratch I would use it. Unfortunately because it is more open it adds space, and I calculated that it would add enough pages to the existing text file that the cover's spine would no longer fit. I'd have to return to my jacket designer to have it adjusted, which I believe is more expense and trouble than the change is worth. 

Nevertheless, this is one more reason why anyone who plans to publish independently needs solid professional counsel.

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