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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Why is font size so important to a good book?

Something I am starting to get really irritated about these days are books with ridiculously small font. I can understand the need to use small font for particularly large books, but I cannot for the life of me get through books with fonts so small I have to wear my glasses in order to see the words (I'm near sighted, so this is particularly bad). Yet, publishers keep doing it, and I'm finding myself more and more incapable of even bothering to pick up books with tiny fonts.

There's another reason too, and that has to do with my interest levels in books. When I read, I like to feel like I've accomplished something in a half hour of reading. I'm not a fast reader, so when I spend time reading, it's nice to know that I've gone farther than five pages in a ten minute span of time. If it takes me an hour to get through a relatively small chapter, then I start losing interest in the reading. There is a book I currently have on my review shelf that suffers from this, and the result is that I'm no longer reading it. I might try again in the future, but for now, I can't be bothered with it. It's a 6x9 trade paperback with font this size. Or maybe smaller. I don't now. How big does that little bit look on the screen?

On the other side of things, though, there are books with font size that is too big. For children's books, this is perfectly acceptable, since kids really can't be bothered to read normal-people font anyway. For adult books, however, large font is kind of cumbersome. I don't think I've ever dropped a book that had large font, but it can still make you a little irritated when you bought a 300-page novel only to find out that it's actually 150 in more traditional font sizes.

So, to anyone publishing books out there, please use a reasonable font size. I know you want to save paper and all, but what is more important: a book that becomes a nice door stop, or a book that gets read all the way through and enjoyed for what it is, rather than hated for how it was put together?

What other pet peeves do you all have about the design of books? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I agree completely; I can't stand small font sizes either! It's exactly like you said - I like to feel like I'm making progress and if the font is tiny I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. As someone who doesn't read that quickly to begin with, I find that very disheartening.

    Font in general is important. There is one book I started to read last month and ended up putting away for the moment because the font was just plain distracting. I couldn't concentrate on the actual story because the font was annoying me.

  2. Kristen: This also explains my distaste of literary theory books. Always tiny font for really complicated writing...

  3. I'm tired of huge margins in books so the books look like they are bigger than they actually are. Case in point: Warren Ellis's Crooked Little Vein. It's basically a short story with a large font size and huge margins to fit into a book-club-sized hardcover. Which is fine except for the fact that the cover price was $22.

  4. Jeff: $22 for a short story with big font and large margins? That's absurd...

  5. Tiny fonts bug me, too. I don't think I've ever abandoned a book because of its font size, but tiny fonts frequently frustrate me. I'm like you: I like to feel like I'm making some progress through a book, and it annoys me when I read for ages and only make it through a couple of pages.

  6. Memory: I don't know if you could say I've abandoned the books. I'll likely go back to them at some point, but I just can't get into them. One book I have took me five minutes to go through one page, not just because the font was small, but because the prose was very complicated and you had to read slow to get through it all.

    I want to finish that book though...