Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Choosing Fonts for iBooks on iPad

[Update: With iBooks 1.1, Apple has changed much of the system for applying fonts. Please read Apple damaging ePub standards with pseudo-support and Apple kills fonts in iBooks, strikes blow to standards.]

iBooks doesn't yet support font embedding*. I don't quite get why Apple doesn’t want to give book designers the freedom to be able to create beautiful books, but that’s another topic entirely.

And though the choices are limited, and yes, frustrating, it’s still better than nothing at all: Times (serif), Helvetica (sans-serif), Courier (monospace), Apple Chancery Snell Roundhand (cursive), Papyrus (fantasy), Baskerville, Palatino, Cochin, Times New Roman, and Verdana (these last five by name).

Check it out. Here is 1-8

Default Font iBooks on iPad

And here are 9 and 10. Palatino is used by default if you don't specify anything and your reader doesn't either.

Default Font in iBooks on iPad

Strange things happen when your readers choose other fonts. If they choose Cochin or Baskerville, everything gets bigger:

Baskerville chosen in iBooks on iPad

If they choose Verdana, the size of all the text (regardless of font), is reduced:

Verdana chosen in iBooks on iPad

If they choose Times New Roman, all font information is lost, and the size goes back to normal.

Times New Roman chosen in iBooks on iPad

Note that size and font choices are used for every book in the iBooks library and not just the one in which the settings were adjusted.

There are 10 sizes, the default is size 4.

*The iPad itself does allow font embedding, but only in Safari, and only as long as you use SVG fonts. But embedded fonts don’t work in iBooks. Aargh. (At least I haven't gotten them to work... if you have, please share!)


  1. Wait! There's more, much more. Coming soon!

  2. Thanks for this series of posts Liz. My iPad hasn't arrived yet, but I'm looking forward to constructing some ePubs for it once it arrives and this info is going to help a lot.

    Going back to your analysis of wrapping text around images have you experimented with specifying the image height and width in your stylesheet as a percentage yet?

  3. How do I select courier font for my epub. I read lot of screenplays and they are written in courier font. is there any way to enable it in ibooks app?

  4. Do any of the available ePub readers for the iPad support embedded fonts yet?

    I have tried iBooks, Kobo, ibis, iBookshelf (and one other that I can't recall the name of now). They all have weaknesses and at the moment I am using Stanza with the Fullforce Jailbreak service that allows it to run full screen. A bit wonky but at least I can still access my library on Dropbox!

  5. Hmm. I would've thought IbisReader would support them, since it works in Safari, and I've gotten embedded fonts to work there on the iPad. I can't remember this minute if I tested that particular configuration or not. You could ask Liza Daly (http://www.twitter.com/liza)


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