What Font Should I Use for My Book? (Serif vs Sans Serif)

Not long ago, we answered a question on Quora about why books usually use serif fonts instead of sans serif for main text. It may seem like an unimportant detail to many. In fact, typography is one aspect of book design that’s typically not noticed when done right. However, in reality, what typeface you select impacts readability and thus directly impacts the reader. In this previous post, we discussed why interior page design is so important, but we’ll expand further on font choice and exactly how it helps or hinders readers.

First, what is a font? To understand “font,” you first need to understand the term “typeface.” Though the two terms are often used interchangeably, “typeface” refers to the complete set of characters that share common design fundamentals (for example, all the versions of Times Roman). “Font” refers to the specific size, weight, and style of a particular subsection of a typeface, for example, 12-point Times Roman Italic. To confuse things even further, “font-family” is often used as a synonym for “typeface.” We’ll get off our typographer’s soap box now.

Serif and sans serif are the most popular font families. In the publishing industry, serif fonts (such as Times New Roman) are superior to sans serif fonts (such as Calibri) because they are more readable. As we read, our eyes stop on several points along the line of text. The serifs help guide our eyes along the line. Sans serif fonts, on the other hand, lead to eye fatigue and negatively impact reading comprehension.

Book designers spend countless hours tweaking word spacing, letter spacing, and line spacing for the best result possible. While many programs may be available to you, there’s no substitute for a qualified, dedicated designer. If you’d like to learn more about this subject, these are two helpful books you may find interesting:

The Complete Manual of Typography by James Felici

Type and Layout by Colin Wheildon

Hitting on a previous post, it’s good for you to learn as much as you can about the publishing process, including book page design, so you can make an informed choice on what service is best for you. If you’d like to reach out to us with any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.


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