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  • Raphaël Freeman

Typesetting for Glass


Just as I was in University studying a rather unique combination of subjects, Computer Science and Printing & Photographic Technology (yes try fitting that on the top of your exam paper when they left enough space for the word: Geography), the desktop publishing revolution was in full force. This was for me very exciting, in my first year we were outputting directly to bromides at £5 a printout (which was a lot of dosh in 1989) and then the next year playing with QuarkXPress on a Mac. At a similar time I was playing on a PC with Windows 1.0. I remember my excitement when the letter “i” only took up the width that it needed. Proportionally spaced fonts.

What I didn’t realize that there were many who opposed DTP. Yes it was much cheaper to create professional looking newsletters and yes even books, but those in opposition were horrified at the lack of good kerning, gone were true small caps (hey what’s wrong with making the uppercase letters smaller – and for that matter why on earth are they called uppercase…), figures turning into numbers and were all monospaced capitals and the list goes on, but for a kid fresh out of university this was incredibly exciting for me. By my final year, I had a PC running Windows 3.11 for Workgroups and my trusted HP DeskJet 500 (which I would refill with Parker Quink) and was DTPing away!

I accidentally fell into the profession when I finished University since I needed a job for six months to save up for making Aliya and fell upon Alpha Creative Solutions in Sale, Manchester. Well, as they say, the rest is history. I’ve been typesetting more or less consistently since whilst as the same time fulfilling executive roles in companies such as the Jerusalem Post and Koren Publishers Jerusalem.

Of course DTP as it was once called caught up to traditional typesetting and anybody familiar with Adobe InDesign knows that with the right typefaces, there is very little typographic compromise. Yes there are still some programs who have better control like PowerPublisher and Ventura, but overall, InDesign has become the de facto standard and there is balance in the typographic world. Books are again beautiful (well some are) and although some will argue (correctly imho) that the art of typesetting is being lost, there are still some of us who practice the art (or perhaps somewhat of a science) and produce really great looking print books.

Enter the iPad and the Kindle.

I’m not sure actually sure what came first, the Kindle or the iPad but it’s not important. The statistics are dazzling. The number of people purchasing books that are read on a glass or plastic screen is dazzling. We cannot ignore this phenomenon. Anybody who says that the future of books is ebooks is mistaken. To quote Ilan Greenfield, the publisher of Gefen Publishing House, “eBooks are not the future. They are the now” and he is right.

What is interesting are the are the same arguments that happened 25 years ago. Look at a Kindle book, and how the text is presented. After the initial wonder that we can change the size of the text, suddenly the typesetter inside me wonders about rivers and leading and it doesn’t take long (about a 5 milliseconds) for me to wonder about kerning, tracking, ligatures, optical margin alignment, small caps, text figures aarrggghhh, I’m looking at Notepad on my PC!

This is worse than 25 years ago. Much worse. As a typesetter I can’t even control any of this. There is no concept of typesetting a book for Kindle. It’s simply a text dump with some very basic formatting (probably about as good as the formatting of this blog post). Is this where we are? Yet people are buying books in this awful format by the millions. That’s a lot of books!

Well I guess I can’t control everything.

Interestingly Apple has come up with a partial answer. It allows two kinds of formats onto the iBookstore. The first is ePub which is usually as awful as Kindle books but it doesn’t need to be, but also allows a special .ibooks format that can only be created with Apple’s proprietary but free iBooks Author software. Lots of bugs in it, but it allows you to actually typeset for glass. Now the user has to be very savvy to know that they are buying a typeset book for their iPad (and now Mac), by somehow noticing the “Made for iBooks” logo on the top right.

Renana Typesetting specializes in typesetting in .iBooks format. If you have a book that you wish to typeset for glass or paper then please feel free get in touch with us to discuss your project.

We know that every job is unique, and your requirements need to be carefully addressed with personal attention. Contact us today for a no-obligation discussion!

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