Size does matter

I got an email today from a Baby-Boomer complaining about books printed in type smaller than 12-point. She said my last book, Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund, was in 10 or 11-point type, and wanted to know how she could call that to the attention of my publisher. I will pass along her complaint to my editor, but I imagine those decisions are made by production people who have to answer to accounting people whose goal it is to keep costs as low as possible. Paper is expensive, and there’s probably some formula that tells them how many extra pages a book will be added for every point increase in type size.

Like a lot of cost-based decisions, that seems short-sighted to me (no pun intended). When paper-based publishers are trying to keep readers from turning to electronic publishing, it’s dumb to remove one of the qualities that make most of us prefer reading a book in a book vs. reading it on a computer screen. White space adds to our enjoyment. Like Japanese Noh theater, the blank space on a page speaks with its own rhythm. If it overwhelms the size of type, it renders the words on the page less important.

Large-print books suffer from the opposite problem of not enough white space. Instead of retaining margins of regular-print pages, most large-print editions run type to the paper’s edge so the story is in your face. It always makes me uneasy to open one of those books. With so little white space to soften it, the type seems to scream at me.

I wish I could tell my readers that I will insist that my books be printed so they’re at a most enjoyable balance of typeface and white space, but I don’t have that kind of clout. Does anybody?

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