When you fire up your favorite word processor, there are dozens or even hundreds of fonts you can choose. You can select fancy cursive fonts or straightlaced fonts that make your work look like it came from a 1970’s typewriter.
In the world of eBooks, there are some things you need to know about fonts:
- Most eBook readers come with a set of default fonts.
- The person reading your eBook can change the font to one that fits their liking.
- Embedding custom fonts typically require licensing, adding cost to your work.
So what font do you choose for your technical eBook? I will share my thoughts with you in this post.
What is the right font?
Do a Google search for best font to use in a technical document or open a computer or technical manual and you will see one font prevails: Palatino (and Palatino Linotype). I am not a font expert, but what I do know is people I have polled say they prefer switching to Palatino for technical eBooks.
Palatino was designed for people to read in close or far away positions. This type of font is ideal for technical books and eBooks alike because very often, technical books are not simply read on a couch like a romance novel. For example, if your book teaches software programming, it might be sitting on your desk next to the computer. If your book teaches experimentation, it might be sitting on a shelf in a brightly lit room.
There are other reasons to use Palatino as well. This is not an official study, but here are the fonts I find that install by default in the popular eBook readers:
Note: Depending on the specific device or app you use, the list of fonts can be larger or smaller.
As you can see, there are a number of fonts available on each device and there is little commonality in names. Granted, some of these fonts have different names but are also very similar. For example, many devices default to Georgia, which is not dissimilar to Palatino.
Another reason to choose Palatino is that these fonts are available on Windows and Macs. If you plan on using Google Docs, Georgia is your closest match.
How to define the default font
Most word processors start with a default font. As of this writing, Microsoft Word defaults to Calibri; Apple Pages defaults to Helvetica, and Google Docs defaults to Arial. The following video clips show how to modify the default font in these software products. You will easily find a similar method in your word processor of choice.
Change the default font in Google Docs:
Change the default font in Apple Pages:
Change the default font in Microsoft Word:
When you create a new technical document, consider using the Palatino or Georgia fonts. These are the only fonts that are most common to eBook readers.
Remember these important tips:
- Change the default (normal) font style. Do not just select all the text in your document and change the font.
- No matter what font you use, make sure it is usable on your target eBook readers.
- If you want to embed a font physically into your eBook, keep in mind, there could be significant licensing fees associated with the font.
A last note on embedding fonts
People frequently ask me about embedding fonts. There are two methods you can create your eBook.
The first method is to use the font you want the reader to see (Palatino, Georga, etc.). However, you do not specifically embed the font. Instead, you are just telling the eBook reader “If you have this font, please use it. Otherwise, use your default font”.
Embedding fonts takes the physical font file(s) and places them into the eBook. You are now redistributing the font, and that could result in significant licensing fees.