I have been amazed by the number of people who have commented on yesterday's post, Apple kills fonts in iBooks, strikes blow to standards, with some variation of
I'm just wondering if those folks think there should be fonts at all. Perhaps we should require a license before one is allowed to choose a font. And how did we miss the boat on print designers? They've been running wild!
"it's better for Apple to limit font choice because ebook designers will make unreadable, ugly designs we can't live with"
Here's the thing. Fonts exist. They exist because we humans like variety, we like experimenting, we like design. And if you don't like it, you don't have to buy it. Printed materials have been going on this premise for hundreds of years, and no-one has had the temerity to suggest that Apple should decide what fonts they use!
But there's more. Apple says it supports the ePub standard. The ePub standard requires support of the
font-familyproperty. But Apple supports the
font-familyproperty only for some parts of a book, notably leaving out the ones that make it easy to style the body text. (And, it should be noted, iBooks does support adding all sorts of other kinds of formatting to the body text with no compunctions at all: color, size, bold and italic... don't tell those dastardly designers!)
But that doesn't mean you can't choose a font for the body text in iBooks 1.1. It just means you'll need an ugly, non-standards-supporting hack to do it. It would be one thing if Apple, like some other ePub readers, didn't support fonts at all, but it's quite another to support fonts in this completely non-standard, hack-inviting way.
This not only is annoying in a paternalistic, "I know better than you", sort of way, it will end up damaging the ePub standard, and costing extra time and money as designers, once again (have we really forgotten IE5 already???), create multiple designs to work in different ways on devices that supposedly should just work.
My bet is that there are a fair number of people who prefer a well-designed book to one in a generic font with full justification and no hyphenation. Just go to a bookstore and see for yourself.