On 8/5/06, Dave Thomas <dave / pragprog.com> wrote:
>
> On Aug 4, 2006, at 3:56 PM, John Gabriele wrote:
>
> > No, it's not just you. The font is too wide. Your eyes have to zoom
> > uncomfortably fast back and forth across the page to read sentences at
> > your normal speed (i.e. not enough words per line). Maybe it's done to
> > make the book have more pages, dunno.
>
> Actually, we'd love the books to be fewer pages. However, we did a
> fair amount of research on fonts, and we worked with readers early on
> to see what fonts worked for them. The Bookman we use turned out to
> give people the sense of being approachable while still being
> readable. Everyone is different of course, and I understand what
> you're saying about the width. At the same time, I get a fair number
> of e-mails from folks saying they love the layouts.

As an aside (regarding layouts), one amazing thing about the PickAxe
v2 to me is how, all over the place, there's notes that say, "see page
#n". I'm guessing this is done using some LaTeX magic. It's very
impressive and helpful. :) I lot of other books just say, "see chapter
n, section m".

Regarding Bookman, I will say that although the glyphs are rather
wide, they have nice ... um, "balance" I guess (that is, the
difference between the thickest and thinnest parts of a given glyph
isn't too large), and it's indeed a handsome font. I think David
Black's recent Ruby for Rails book suffers (IMO) from the font glyphs
being too thin in the thin places, which gives the text a kind of
uncomfortable high-contrasty look (great book, by the way).

> Every now and then I experiment with changing the fonts around (we
> recently changed the code font in all our books to make it narrower)
> and I'm still open to suggestions. But approachability is still
> important to me, and I wouldn't want to go with anything harsh.

Dave, I just grabbed a sample pdf (exerpt) chapter from your site and
had a look.

1. Whoa! The source code snippets are colorized! The graphics
(including the occasional screenshot) are in color too! And on Ubuntu
using Evince, the text is much more readable and clear than I'd
expected (I'd previously been using xpdf). I will definitely
reconsider buying your pdf versions.

2. The sans-serif font that you use interspersed with the Bookman to
indicate filenames, urls, variable names, symbols, chapter outlines,
etc. ("Avante Garde" maybe?) seems like a weird choice. It seems artsy
for artsy's-sake, and not particularly readable. Last time I saw it in
print was in the earlier editions of some Core Java books from Sun.

3. The source code font looks nice -- like Bitstream Vera Sans Mono,
which I see a lot of :) And clickable "download source" links -- *yow*
that's nice.

---John