What are the best free fonts to write a book?

mattmax's picture

Hello everybody,

which free fonts do you consider the best to publish books? I will self publish books under CC, that's why they must be free. There are some amazing ones that are non-free, especially from Adobe, but I couldn't fine anyone that was clean, light and elegant enough to provide a pleasant reading. So maybe you know some. ;)

By the way this website contains a description of "Stone Type Foundry", the same font in the attached image. I was astonished how beautiful and elegant it is, and I think it must be perfect to publish a book. Unfortunately it's paid. But what do you think of it? Just curious.

Thanks!

charles ellertson's picture

Sorry, your "best" question doesn't make sense. If there were a "best," everyone would be using it; it would be all over the net. So first step is "best" for what? Romantic poetry? Historical fiction? Social sciences? Physics? And ink on paper or pixels on screen? If on screen, PDF or EPUB?

Moving on, I know current publishers call themselves "content providers." Which is silly, the author is the content provider. The publisher's role is, say, that of "content assurer." The work of editors and designers (and typesetters) adds a level of quality few authors can bring to their content. Think about that.

I'd assume by "free" you mean what's generally meant by "libre." "Libre" with fonts means, usually, that the license permits unlimited use, except for (re)selling the fonts. But licenses vary, you need to understand them.

All of that said, I'm an advocate of libre fonts. And almost all of them need some work to be brought up to first-class status. "Best of the ho-hum" isn't a particularly good place.

* * *

Sumner Stone's done fine work over the years. A polished professional. What you would expect from the guy who, when at Adobe, hired Slimbach & Twonbly & generally built Adobe's font department in earlier days...

However, most of his fonts were drawn when ink was put on paper in a slightly a different way, and have not been re-weighted for DTP printing. Some find that a problem. But web and ink are different...

You sure you don't want some quality assurance?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Why does self-publishing books under a CC-license require a free font, and what are the specific terms? As I understand it CC-licenses have multiple levels.

Btw: When judging a typeface, you need to look at it in context. The letterforms of Sator might look beautiful up close and alone, but it tells you nothing about how it will preform in your book. And that list, while it contains some interesting foundries, is utter bull crap. Never trust those lists. That’s the road to perdition.

quadibloc's picture

There certainly are some fine fonts for printing books among those which are open-source. Fanwood and Linden Hill, both from The League of Movable Type, are two I can recommend unreservedly.

mattmax's picture

cebg:
By "best" I mean fonts that are "clean, light and elegant enough to provide a pleasant reading", in other words: fonts that are beautiful and do not cause our eyes to get tired. The books will be non-fiction, mostly social sciences. They will be released only in PDF.

I don't understand anything about professional publishing and the structure behind it, however publishing books will be mainly a hobby to me, and I still have plenty of time to study more about the field.

Yes, by "free" I mean "libre".

Thank you for your opinion on Sumner Stone's work, it is much appreciated.

Frode Bo Helland:
A CC-license does not require a libre font, I just want to use them because I want to make the work entirely free, from the content to the font, and (correct me if I am wrong) I think that depending on the font you use you have to embed it in the PDF file.

Thanks for the tip about the website, I agree with you. I think website owners worry more about making profit than delivering good content these days, lol.

quadiblock:
Those fonts are beautiful, especially Linden Hill, but I think they are very small. They only looked a little better at 14 pt. Anyway, thank you for your help, I liked the website and the fonts look cool.

charles ellertson's picture

The books will be non-fiction, mostly social sciences. They will be released only in PDF.

FWIW, I have used a reworked version of Charis-SIL in this context. Two books set in Charis, designed by Cherie Westmoreland, were selected for the AAUP Book Show. To the best of my knowledge, these are the only Libre fonts ever used in an AAUP Book show selection.

Charis-SIL is esentially the same as Bitstream Charter, a font family designed by Matthew Carter (a MacArthur grant recipient). It is not, perhaps, generally regarded as an elegant font, but is eminently readable.

Modifications we made were basically in spacing, and cutting old-style numbers -- not particularly needed for social sciences.

A good companion sans, if you want one, is Lato.

I can look tomorrow for an Amazon "Look Inside" to show it's use...

Edit:

In the meantime:

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=charis+SIL&qpvt=charis+SIL&FORM=IGRE

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Lato+fonts&qs=n&form=QBIR&pq=lato+fo...

altsan's picture

Gentium Book is quite attractive but perhaps it's a bit archaic-looking for your criteria.

Linux Libertine is quite readable and decent-looking, if not particularly "beautiful".

Sorts Mill Kis is very looks very nice, although I haven't used it myself so I can't say much more.

quadibloc's picture

Of course, given the books are non-fiction, you may indeed want something plain and not fancy.

In which case, you may just want to go here for open-source lookalikes to some very popular typefaces - thus, Pagella, Schola, and even Termes might be of interest.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

What is it about your CC-license that makes a free font a requirement? Do you allow people to edit and reprint/republish the book? Do you provide source files for them?

I think that depending on the font you use you have to embed it in the PDF file.
Yes, most likely, but there is no reason why you can’t embed a commercial font in a PDF, as long as the EULA allows it or you negotiate a special deal with the foundry.

I don’t mind if you want to use a free font, I’m just curious as to why.

quadibloc's picture

@Frode Bo Helland:
Do you allow people to edit and reprint/republish the book? Do you provide source files for them?

Well, the answer has to be "yes" to those questions if the book itself is under an open-source license. So you have to be able to do those things to every part of the book in the format (i.e. .doc, .odt, .pdf) in which it will be distributed - and that includes the fonts.

Now, why he would need to make his book open-source instead of just free as in beer is unclear. Perhaps it's a nonfiction book to which others could usefully add. Or perhaps it includes extensive quotation from another book that's under an open-source license, in which case it must be open-source. Or perhaps he chose to have that license to support the open-source movement.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I ask because Matt said it would be distributed as PDF only, and PDF is not an easily editable format.

mattmax's picture

altsan:
Gentium fonts look really nice, especially Gentium Basic and Gentium Book Basic, unfortunately you are right that they look kinda archaic. :/ But... who knows? Maybe they work well. ;)

quadiblock:
"Now, why he would need to make his book open-source instead of just free as in beer is unclear."

I want to make the books "free as in freedom" (aka "libre"), under CC-BY and CC-BY-SA. The books will be computer manuals. You're right, in this case it's not obligatory to use libre fonts, I could use commercial fonts "with exceptions", but as I support software libre, I want to make them completely libre if possible, from the font until the content. That's the reason.

quadiblock and Frode Be Helland:
The books will be released in PDF to the general public, but they will also be released in ODF format in case others want to modify it. ;)

...

I will look at the websites and fonts you provided and post my opinion here. If you have any more suggestions please post here. Your help is very appreciated!

Thank you!

abattis's picture

Alegreya is a very good libre book type. Rosarivo also.

hrant's picture

Alegreya seems quite capable and solid, but Rosarivo looks to be pretty poorly spaced (besides being very old-fashioned).

hhp

hrant's picture

http://typographica.org/features/our-favorite-typefaces-of-2012/
So, out of 54 selections there are a whopping total of... one open-source fonts. And that's by Adobe! "It's an evil Font Mafia CONSPIRACY, I tell you!!"

hhp

Jens Kutilek's picture

Hrant, since you mentioned Alegreya, it’s on the Typographica list, and it’s also Open Source – but there’s a paid version too.

You can get 6 fonts for free at Google – or 10 fonts for $400. Hmmm.

Michel Boyer's picture

The free fonts have a little less that 500 glyphs each, the fonts that are sold $65 each have about 840 glyphs each, including small caps that are not to be found in the free fonts. Maybe someone that has $400 loose can check for the other differences...

PabloImpallari's picture

Alegreya SmallCaps are also included in Google Webfonts
http://www.google.com/fonts/specimen/Alegreya+SC

Vladimirsson's picture

The free fonts have a little less that 500 glyphs each, the fonts that are sold $65 each have about 840 glyphs each, including small caps that are not to be found in the free fonts.

Well that's just not true. For example, Linux Libertine has 2000 glyphs, Junius Unicode has 3280, and both have small caps.

quadibloc's picture

Junius Unicode, or Junicode, is another very nice one - but like 1911 Goudy Bookletter, it doesn't function well in WordPad, even though it seems to have the necessary encoding settings.

hrant's picture

Bogdan, Michel was talking specifically about Alegreya.

OK guys, I'll give you 1.5 open-source fonts among 54. Yippee.

hhp

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