[clug] Apple and ePub

Alex Satrapa grail at goldweb.com.au
Thu Jun 24 06:56:09 MDT 2010

On 24 Jun 2010, at 18:36, Neill Cox wrote:

> So if Apple fails to conform to a standard but do so in order to protect us from bad designers it's OK?  Perhaps we should get them to refuse to allow Comic Sans in Safari as well?

More correctly, when *everyone else in the market* restricts what fonts can be used on their device or in their software, *why* are people complaining about Apple doing the exact same thing? Other readers such as Stanza, Readme, Kindle, and Kobo all have similar limitations.

> Note: I am taking it on faith that there is such a thing as an "ePub specification" and that it "requires that conforming ereaders, like yours [ie Apple's] purports to be, support font-family".

Here's the appropriate section from the Open Publication Structure (OPS) 2.0 v1.0 document:

> 3.4: Embedded Fonts
> To provide authors with control over the appearance of the text, OPS supports the CSS2 font-face at-rule (@font-face). See section 15.3.1 of the CSS2 Recommendation. The following font descriptors must be supported:
> 	• font-family
> 	• font-style
> 	• font-variant
> 	• font-weight
> 	• font-size
> 	• src
> For portability, authors must not use any other descriptors. Font files must carry all information needed for rendering Unicode characters. Fonts must not provide mappings for Unicode characters that would change the semantics of the text (e.g. mapping the letter "A" to a biohazard symbol). Content creators must not assume that any particular font format is supported. Fonts could be included in multiple formats by using a list of files for the src descriptor; the first supported format should be used. At least one file in OpenType format should always be included in the list. It is advisable for a Reading System to support the OpenType font format, but this is not a conformance requirement; a reading system maysupport no embedded font formats at all. Content creators should use comma-separated lists for font-family properties to specify fallback font choices.
> Content creators must always honor usage restrictions that are encoded in OpenType fonts (and many other font formats). Fonts that are marked "no embedding" must not be included in OPS Publications.
> Any font files included in an OPS Publication must be included in the OPF manifest with appropriate media type.

Note the following phrases: "Content creators must not assume that any particular font format is supported ... it is advisable for a Reading System to support the OpenType font format ... "

There's nothing in the spec stating explicitly that Readers must actually render using the fonts described in "font-family" - only that the Reader must support the descriptor (ie: not break when the descriptor is used). The readers I've come across do not support all the features you'd expect them to, based on a naive interpretation of the spec. The Amazon Kindle (and others like it) cannot support colours (for obvious reasons). So you can't expect ePub readers to render the colours that you've painstakingly specified in your document. Apple's iBooks will display the document with a huge white border, so using any background colour will make your ePub look odd in iBooks. Readme will convert the entire document to display in some horrid font, complete with a dropcap to start every paragraph.

Then to rub salt into the wound, once you've gone to great lengths of licencing and including your special unique snowflake webfont, you publish through the Apple iBookstore and then the typographically ignorant lout of a user goes and sets the whole thing to "Verdana".

So people complaining about fonts not being supported "my way" are basically stating that they the author are more important than the readers. Which is, of course, a load of bollocks. If you're so important that your work must never be compromised by being displayed in Comic Sans, don't publish it.

For what it's worth, I haven't been able to replicate the problem that the author on Ars Technica has encountered. Which means one of us is doing it wrong.


PS: I'm not really on a crusade against Comic Sans. It's just that the poor little font has become cliché, in the same genre of "fonts that are so overused that they're tired" as Papyrus and other fonts that are distributed with Windows or Mac OS X. They're there for free, so people use them. Everyone thinks they'll be unique and use Papyrus on their wedding invitations, just like everyone else. It's getting to the point that to be truly unique, you'll use Times New Roman or Helvetica. Because Helvetica, is the new Helvetica.

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